- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - One of the North Carolina Senate’s top budget writers reversed his decision to seek a sixth term Monday after convincing a first-term House Republican to run for the post.

Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, and co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, had filed earlier this month to run for re-election but said he withdrew his candidacy papers Monday morning at the Wake County elections board.

Hunt said he had been looking for someone to run for his seat and decided to drop out when state Rep. Jim Fulghum, R-Wake, agreed to compete in the 15th Senate District. Fulghum, a retired neurosurgeon, switched his candidacy Monday from House to Senate.

Fulghum said he’s enjoyed going to work in the House but listened to Hunt’s request. “I felt like I could carry the ball on the Senate side,” he said.

Hunt said that after 20 years in government, including time on the Raleigh City Council, it was time for him to step aside.

As one of three budget co-chairmen since 2011, Hunt has been intensely involved in spending decisions as Republicans controlled the General Assembly and eliminated a shortfall - moves GOP leaders say helped put the state on firming fiscal footing.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” said Hunt, a real estate investor. “I’m 71. I think we’ve accomplished a lot.”

Hunt said he’s been proud of his involvement with legislation approved in 2006 requiring school districts to set daily time in school for students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. He also introduced a resolution in 2011 that ultimately led the Senate to vote to pardon Reconstruction-era Gov. William Holden, who was removed from office in 1870 for wrongdoing related to his efforts to stop Ku Klux Klan violence.

“A successful small business owner, Neal never forgot what helps our state attract job creators - lower taxes, less government red tape, and smart fiscal policies,” Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a news release.

Another budget co-chairman - Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth - resigned from the Senate in December to become a hospital executive.

Former Wake County Commissioner Gary Pendleton, a Republican, and Democrat Kim Hanchette have entered the race for Fulghum’s 49th House District seat.

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