Rep. Mike McIntyre, who plans to retire from Congress at the end of his current term
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Rep. Mike McIntyre still has about a year left in Washington, DC. After announcing plans to retire at the end of his ninth term in the House of Representatives, the Democrat from Lumberton has had to answer a lot of questions about why and how he decided to step down.
"You're constantly on the go in this job," McIntyre said in an interview this week. "If you're not doing official business, you're doing political business and you're always going to events. We finally had some time during the Christmas holidays and New Year's to spend some time talking, reflecting and praying about our decision. That's something we do every two years. It was not just this election, or this situation, like a lot of people have assumed. As we look back we feel good about what we've accomplished. We also felt it was a good time to look at new opportunities and a new chapter while we are still young enough and healthy enough to look at those new opportunities."
In the days immediately after making the announcement, McIntyre said he was unclear about what the future would hold, and whether he saw any other political campaigning on the horizon. There has been speculation on several fronts that he would possibly seek a position in Raleigh, whether it be in the General Assembly or as a candidate for state office.
"It's always nice when people suggest those things," said McIntyre when asked if he had given any more thought to the possibilities of holding elected office once again. "It took a while to pray through and come to this decision, we are now just beginning to explore what those opportunities might be. Whatever we do, we want to continue helping North Carolina, whether it be in the public or private sector."
McIntyre is quick to say that he has plenty of work ahead in Congress, especially on three major bills he says will impact major industries in North Carolina: agriculture with the Farm Bill, the Defense Bill and the impact on military bases in North Carolina, and the Water Resources Development Act dealing with the state's beaches and coastline.
McIntyre also shared some thoughts on the three men who served in the Oval Office during his 18-years in Congress.
He remembered President Bill Clinton's trip to Whiteville in 2000, on his "bridging the digital divide" trip, speaking in front of a crowd estimated at five thousand people. "That was President Clinton's last year," McIntyre said. "I remember later that year during the holidays, one of the staff members came up to me and told me the President said that trip stood out in his mind as one of the most enjoyable of his last year in office, and out of his eight years because it was so genuine, the people were so excited, and it was like rural America and southeastern north Carolina was being paid attention to."
McIntyre thought back to a favorite time spent with President George W. Bush, during a 2002 trip to one of the military bases in North Carolina: "I still remember when we flew down to Fort Bragg, and he made an address to the nation right in the midst of some of the tense days early on with our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan," McIntyre recalled. "That night happened to be the night of the NBA draft, and that happened to be the year (University of North) Carolina won the NCAA championship. We're getting on the plane getting ready to fly back on Air Force One that night, because we were in session that week. I have a picture, the White House photographer stepped into the President's office on Air Force One, and we're sitting there with (former Senator) Elizabeth Dole, (former Representative) Robin Hayes and (Senator) Richard Burr. They're Duke and Wake Forest grads, and I'm the only Carolina graduate in the room. President Bush turns around, picks up the USA Today, looks at me and says ‘what happened in the draft, isn't that doing on tonight?' I said ‘yes sir, and we had two Carolina guys everybody expected to be drafted, and Rashad McCants also went in the top-15'. He looked at me and said, ‘that McCants guy, he wasn't supposed to go that high, was he?' Then he opened up the USA Today and we started talking Carolina basketball".
McIntyre says President Obama is a big basketball fan, and recalled sharing times talking hoops with the current Commander-in-Chief. "He has met my two boys, they are Carolina grads like I am," McIntyre said. "I remember when he (President Obama) picked Carolina to win the national championship and they did in 2009, and we were at a summer picnic where they invite the families of Congress to come, and my whole family was there. We all wore our Carolina blue knit shirts, identical knit shirts, and we came walking along the South Lawn to speak to him and he said ‘here come those Carolina boys'. Ever since then he has remembered that and even the other day, when I was on Air Force One (for President's trip to Raleigh), he talked to me about the Carolina basketball team and the tough season they're having now. He's never forgotten that. He always brings that up to me or to the boys."
When asked if he will be active in backing any of the candidates who file to run for his District 7 House seat, McIntyre said flatly "no". "We've had Democratic, Republican and Independent support. That's the people's decision, I don't think we should run interference on that, so we don't plan to get involved."
It will be the first election Mike McIntyre is not involved with in two decades. But, only time will tell if it will be the last.
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