- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Longtime Republican state Rep. Leo Daughtry announced late Tuesday the current two-year session at the General Assembly will be his last, adding his name to the list of lawmakers who won’t seek re-election in 2016.

The Smithfield attorney, now in his 14th term at the legislature, said in an interview it seemed like a good time to step aside and do something different. Daughtry’s time in politics stretches back to the mid-1970s, as he witnessed firsthand the Republicans’ ascendance in state politics after decades of Democratic rule.

“It’s time to call it a day,” said Daughtry, who will turn 75 in December. “I’m in good shape physically and I’m in a good shape mentally. And I would like to end that way.”

Daughtry joined the Senate in 1989, shifting over to the House four years later. Daughtry became majority leader in the mid-1990s when the GOP took over the chamber for the first time in a century. He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for governor in 2000 and for House speaker in 2003 and 2014, when he most recently lost the Republican caucus vote to current Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland.

Daughtry was the caucus nominee for speaker in 2003, but a handful of dissenting Republicans wouldn’t vote for him. After a GOP legislator’s switch to become a Democrat, Daughtry withdrew from the race a day before the House vote. The House ultimately chose co-speakers, one of whom was Rep. Richard Morgan, R-Moore, an intraparty rival from the 1990s.

Daughtry was largely in the GOP’s political wilderness from the co-speakership until 2011, when Rep. Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, was elected speaker. Daughtry became an elder statesman of sorts, leading the House judiciary committee and sharing duties on budget matters for the judiciary, which got a much-needed cash injection in this year’s budget.

“I’ve tried my best to be the gatekeeper for the judicial branch of government,” Daughtry said, and to keep “the judicial branch healthy and independent.”

House Speaker Pro Tempore Paul Stam, R-Wake, announced at the close of this year’s session two weeks ago that he would retire after 2016. Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, R-Mecklenburg, told colleagues late last week she wouldn’t run again.

Electoral decisions are being made earlier by incumbents and potential challengers because the primary elections have been moved up from May to March. Candidate filing begins Dec. 1.

After leaving the legislature, Daughtry said he will continue to working as an attorney. He’s the founding partner of a law firm that includes his daughter.

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