RALEIGH, North Carolina — North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller announced Saturday that he will not seek re-election as leader of a party still figuring how to recover from recent election losses that have left the Democrats the minority party in state government.
Voller made the announcement that he will not seek a second two-year term as chairman while attending the Democrats' State Executive Committee meeting in his hometown of Pittsboro.
He said the February election for chairman should be about who has the ideas to improve party operations that will result in more election victories in the next two years.
This year, Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan lost to Republican Thom Tillis. And the 2016 cycle includes races for U.S. Senate, governor and president, a race in which North Carolina is again expected to be a battleground.
"An honest and robust discussion on reforms needed to move the North Carolina Democratic Party forward must occur among us — not just a referendum on the next chair," Voller said in a statement. "So in that spirit I will not seek re-election as the chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party. It has been an honor to serve."
Current first vice-chair Patsy Keever has already has announced she will run for the chairmanship.
The executive committee — comprised of several hundred Democratic activists — narrowly elected Voller, then the Pittsboro mayor, early last year. Voller emphasized local-party building and fundraising at a time Republicans controlled the General Assembly and the governor's mansion simultaneously for the first time in 140 years.
Voller took heat from Democrats for firing party Executive Director Robert Dempsey in February and received more criticism for lobbying for civil rights activist Benjamin Chavis to replace him. Veteran campaign worker Casey Mann ended up as the replacement.
Previous first vice-chair Nina Szlosberg-Landis resigned in June 2013, citing differences with Voller.
Democrats won a few additional legislative seats and performed well in some county elections this month while three Supreme Court candidates endorsed by the party also won. Voller attributes the victories to turnout in counties where local Democrats used a state party "Blue Ballot Strategy" that in part developed customized sample ballots to give to potential voters.
But Republicans retained their majorities in the General Assembly now hold ten of the state's 13 U.S. House seats. The GOP also holds both U.S. Senate seats after victories by David Rouzer and Tillis.
"I judge myself by the loss of the U.S. Senate seat and I will take responsibility as the leader of party for that loss," Voller said.
He suggested after Election Day that more local party funding could have made the difference in the U.S. Senate race which Hagan lost by 46,000 votes. There was friction between the state party and Hagan's campaign when Hagan decided to administer the Democrats' statewide coordinated campaign through the Wake County Democratic Party.
Voller had to live with legislation approved by the General Assembly that eliminated straight-ticket voting and the option taxpayers once had to earmark tax payments to their favored political party. Democrats had relied heavily on both in the past.
During his tenure, Voller also faced questions about back taxes related to a family business, credit card charges and personnel decisions within the party that led some activists to call for his ouster.