By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
December 17, 2015
RALEIGH – Two more Republican Senate members say that they will not seek re-election in 2016. Senator Fletcher Hartsell (R-Cabarrus) announced Wednesday that he would end his service at the completion of his 13th term. Sen. Dan Soucek (R-Watauga) said Thursday he will retire at the end of his third term.
Hartsell is the longest-serving member of the North Carolina Senate. According to information provided by the office of the Senate President Pro-Tempore, Hartsell has had a crucial role in:
- Building North Carolina’s Research Campus on the former Cannon Mills site in Kannapolis;
- Passing one of the first welfare reform projects in the United States;
- Simplifying North Carolina’s adoption laws to make it easier for families to adopt children;
- Repealing the state portion of the sales tax on food;
- Building the foundation for tax reform;
- Reforming the delivery of mental health care; and
- Streamlining state government and making it more accountable to taxpayers as chairman of the Senate Program Evaluation Committee
In a statement, Hartsell said he had enjoyed his twenty-five-year tenure in the state Senate and would miss the institution and its people. But he added, “I’m sixty-eight years, and haven’t had a week-long vacation in 25 years. As I accompanied my four-year-old granddaughter to Disney on Ice last week, I realized I wanted to create many more of those special moments with each of my seven grandchildren. With my wife’s recent retirement, it’s now time for me to refocus my energy on my family, local community, missionary work in Guatemala and law practice.”
Senate President Pro-Tem, Phil Berger praised Hartsell for his bipartisan spirit, saying it was the reason both parties had relied on him to tackle and solve some of the state’s major challenges over the years. “The General Assembly and the state will truly miss Sen. Hartsell’s genius for solving tough public policy problems,” said Berger.
In recent years, Hartsell’s legislative tenure has been overshadowed by allegations of wrong-doing.
In 2007, an ethics complaint was filed against him alleging a conflict of interest based on his previous legal representation of the Water and Sewer Authority of Cabarrus County. The complaint was filed when a group of residents in the western part of Cabarrus County was unable to garner legislative support for an incorporation initiative. But the North Carolina State Ethics Committee dismissed the matter, ruling there was no legitimate or factual basis for the complaint.
In 2013, the State Board of Elections expressed concern over Hartsell’s campaign finance reports, alleging he improperly used campaign funds to pay for various personal expenses and referred the case to prosecutors.
Hartsell denies the Board of Elections’ findings, arguing that he has been transparent and cooperated in the investigation as much as he can. He says he hopes there is a resolution on the matter soon. The case has been ongoing for three years, and no charges have been filed.
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said, “I have known Fletcher Hartsell now for sixteen years of his nearly twenty-six years of service in the North Carolina Senate. He is my friend, and I am no fair weather friend. I believe he is a fine Christian man and my brother in Christ. I also think a man is innocent until proven guilty.
Fletcher has not always voted the way I thought he ought to vote on every legislative issue, but I have to trust that like me he does the right as he best sees the right. He has, generally speaking, provided stellar service to our state. I also pray that he might be fully relieved of his burden and enjoy his wife and family. I’ll miss not seeing him as often as I have been accustomed.”
Soucek to Retire from Senate
Sen. Dan Soucek was a part of the Republican take-over in 2010, beating out former Senator Steve Goss, who recently passed-away.
Soucek has a strong socially conservative record.
He was endorsed by North Carolina Right to Life and has been a zealous advocate for much of the pro-life legislation that passed in the last three years. According to information provided by the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics such legislation has resulted in more than 8000 unborn lives being saved in the Tar Heel state.
He was also a primary sponsor of the state’s constitutional amendment marriage amendment that passed in 2012 by sixty-one percent of the vote.
Soucek worked for Samaritan’s Purse before coming to the state Senate.
The Senator from Boone said he based his decision not to run again on family concerns.
He said that as Christmas approached and he reflected on the past year, he realized that there were more than 180 nights that he was not home to kiss his wife and three children good night. “It has been a great and humbling honor to be trusted by the citizens of northwestern North Carolina to represent them in the state Senate,” said Soucek in a statement, “but I can’t continue to faithfully serve both my family and constituents.”
He added that he wanted to thank his family for their “unfailing patience, support, and sacrifice, all while graciously enduring the slings and arrows that were sometimes targeted at them” because of his work in the legislature.
Senate President Pro-Tem, Phil Berger, said Soucek’s departure from the Senate would be a great loss, “but his family deserves to have him back full-time.”
Dr. Mark Creech said that he feared Soucek’s absence in the North Carolina Senate would create a vacuum that may not be refilled.
“Sen. Soucek is a man of profound Christian integrity. He has always been a part of every major initiative for matters that pertain to marriage, life, and religious liberty. I greatly admire the man for his courage and his sacrifice. Soucek is one of those rare fellows who know how to be firm about what’s right, but also balances his principled stand with compassion and grace. I must resign to God’s will in the matter and defer to the Senator’s wisdom concerning his family, but it is saddening to me that he will not be running for re-election,” said Dr. Creech.
Hartsell and Soucek make a total of twenty-three lawmakers that have decided they will not return to the chamber that they serve after 2016. The list now includes seventeen Republicans, five Democrats, and one Unaffiliated.
The John Locke Foundation has listed everyone here.