01/17/10 — Albertson won't run for seat in 2010

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Albertson won't run for seat in 2010

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on January 17, 2010 1:50 AM

Sen. Charlie Albertson

Longtime state Sen. Charlie Albertson, D-Duplin, announced Friday that he will step down from his seat at the end of 2010 -- 22 years after the former musician began his political career.

Albertson, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture employee who plays country music on the side, served four years in the state House and 18 in the Senate.

And, said Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, in a written statement, he will be missed.

"He has been a wonderful example how to live with a positive attitude, strong character and integrity, and an incredible work ethic. Charlie is so quick with a joke and a smile, and he makes everyone around him smile, too. I am so blessed to call him my friend, and I will truly miss seeing him every day in the Senate," he said.

During his time in the Senate, Albertson was best-known for heading up the agriculture and environment committee, helping to pass legislation in the mid-1990s restricting hog lagoons following waste spills in eastern North Carolina, as well as legislation requiring electric utilities to generate a percentage of their energy from renewable sources and efficiencies.

More recently he also was named co-chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee in 2008 and was a key budget writer as negotiations with the House dragged on for nearly two months last summer.

But it was agricultural and environmental issues that were closest to his heart.

"This is where we all live together," he said. "The land will only provide if you take care of it. We have to work hard to protect our land, our water and our air resources. We have a lot of work left to do, but we've done some good things."

He was, Basnight said in his statement, "the Senate's leader on agricultural and environmental issues."

Considered a conservative Democrat, Albertson also was the most vocal supporter of a statewide video poker ban approved in 2006 and one of only five Senate Democrats who voted against the lottery's creation in 2005.

But he also backed some surprising efforts, such as a ban on smoking in prisons despite representing a tobacco-growing district, citing health costs.

He also said that one day he hopes the state will "give all people the same rights and equal opportunity and protection under the law -- the gay community."

"I know a lot of people don't agree with that, but I believe in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that all men are create equal."

However, he said that over the last 22 years he's grown tired of fighting such battles, especially with the state's recent budget woes.

"This is hard work. It's a challenging time to be a member of the body -- a lot of heavy lifting has to be done and very little fun," he said. "I'm completely exhausted. As the song says, I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm still in pretty good shape for my age. I just think it's time for me to take a step back and see what's in the next chapters.

"I always dreamed of serving in the Legislature, but it's been more than I ever contemplated. It's been a great experience. It's been a great honor, and I'll never forget it."

But just because he is stepping down from the Senate does not mean he's going to simply retire quietly to his Duplin County home. The so-called "singing senator," who once appeared on the Grand Ole Opry and wrote and sang jingles for state agencies to discourage litter and to promote North Carolina food products, plans to remain active with his music, as well as involved in moving North Carolina forward.

"I hope I can find some place I can still make a contribution," he said.

Albertson adds to the exodus by Senate Democrats since the Legislature adjourned last August. Four of the 30 Democrats in the 50-seat chamber have announced they won't return after 2010 and two more already have resigned. The six include Majority Leader Tony Rand, who resigned two weeks ago, and retiring finance co-chairman David Hoyle.

"It's the end of an era," said John Davis, a longtime political consultant in Raleigh. "These senators have worked together for decades and they've attained just a powerful team."

Republican hopes of taking over the chamber controlled by Democrats for the past 110 years have increased with a series of announced retirements. Voter registration in districts held by the retiring Hoyle, D-Gaston, and Sen. R.C. Soles, D-Columbus, are considered to favor Republicans, but Alberton's 10th District seat is more comfortable for a Democrat, Davis said.

Albertson, however, declined to say if he had a handpicked successor.

"I hope at the end of the day we have a candidate who will try to represent all the people, not just a select few, and that's what I tried to do," he said. "I've had a good run and people have been good to me I hope people can say I've been fair to everybody."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.