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‘The dean’ of NC House Democrats won’t run again. Here’s who he wants to replace him.

State Rep. Marvin Lucas, a Spring Lake Democrat who has represented Cumberland County in the N.C. House since 2001, is retiring at the end of his current term, and endorsing one of two members of his party who have already lined up to replace him.

Lucas told The News & Observer on Tuesday that after more than 40 years in politics, including two decades in the General Assembly, he had decided against running for another term in 2024, and wanted to spend more time with his family, traveling, hunting and gardening.

A retired teacher and principal, Lucas was the first Black elected official in Spring Lake’s history when he was elected a town alderman in 1977. He served as an alderman for 20 years and as Spring Lake’s mayor for three years, before being elected to the House in 2000.

In a statement, House Minority Leader Robert Reives told The N&O that Lucas had been a mentor to many members of the House Democratic Caucus, and that the caucus was grateful for Lucas’s service.

“Marvin Lucas is the dean of our caucus and a mentor to many of us,” Reives said. “We are grateful for his service, his wisdom, and his leadership. He has earned a well-deserved rest but I expect will continue in service to his community in other ways.”

Rep. Becky Carney, a Charlotte Democrat who is Lucas’s seatmate on the House floor, has known him since she was first elected in 2003.

When he retires, Lucas will pass the torch of being the party’s longest-serving sitting House member to her.

As the longest-serving House Democrat, Lucas will be missed for his deep institutional knowledge, eloquent speeches on the floor, and great sense of humor, Carney said in an interview.

“I will miss sitting next to him, but I’ve got his cell phone on speed dial, and he knows it,” she said.

Advocate of Medicaid expansion

Like many Democrats, Lucas advocated for years that the General Assembly pass Medicaid expansion, voting against a bill the GOP passed in 2013 that was signed by then-Gov. Pat McCrory, rejecting expansion. In 2022, Lucas told the Fayetteville Observer he was running for another term because “there’s still a lot to be done,” which he said included pushing for expansion to go through.

Several Republicans had signaled by this year that they were open to expanding access to the federal health insurance program, and in March, after months of speculation about a deal coming together, House and Senate GOP leaders announced they had reached an agreement and were ready to vote on a bill.

That bill, which made expansion contingent on passage of a state budget before the end of session, passed later that month.

But prolonged budget negotiations between the two chambers this summer delayed expansion from actually taking effect, and hundreds of thousands of eligible North Carolinians found themselves in limbo.

After weeks of talks appeared to fall through, Republicans decided to temporarily shelve a contentious casino proposal that had threatened to derail budget talks, and passed the $30 billion spending plan in September.

With the budget taking effect, the state’s expanded Medicaid program officially began last week.

Endorsement for his seat

Lucas missed more than two months of the legislative session earlier this year after breaking his ankle in a fall, but returned to Raleigh while he was recovering to attend votes on the new abortion and gun laws the GOP-controlled General Assembly passed.

In August, Lucas was briefly hospitalized after losing control of his truck and crashing into a tree and the corner of a house. He told The N&O two days later as he was being discharged that he didn’t suffer any injuries and was being sent home.

Lucas said Tuesday he will serve the remainder of his term through the end of next year, and told The N&O he was endorsing Mike Colvin of Fayetteville in the race for his District 42 seat, which under new district lines covers Spring Lake, Fort Liberty and part of Fayetteville.

Colvin, a funeral director who has been active in local Democratic politics for many years, is the brother of Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin, who was elected to a fourth term last month.

In an interview Tuesday, Colvin said that as a Fayetteville native and a product of the area’s public schools, he was running to address issues important to his community including expanding access to education and health care, and strengthening vocational programs to empower the area’s economy.

Colvin said Lucas began recruiting him a few years ago to run for his seat when he decided to retire, and said he was grateful to run with his mentor’s support.

Former Rep. Elmer Floyd, who represented Cumberland’s District 43 in the House from 2009 to 2021, has also filed to run in the Democratic primary for District 42. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Leonard L. Bryant is running in the Republican primary for that seat.

Other lawmakers who are retiring

Lucas’s announcement makes him at least the ninth lawmaker to announce he’s retiring.

Other long-serving incumbents who have said they won’t run for reelection next year include Democratic Reps. Kelly Alexander of Mecklenburg County and Rosa Gill of Wake County, and Republican Sen. Joyce Krawiec of Forsyth County, WFAE and WUNC reported.