Powerful state Sen. Bob Rucho announces retirement

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Sen. Rucho campaigns in Charlotte in 2014. Photo credit: Ed McDonald via Flickr.

RALEIGH – Powerful and long-serving State Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Matthews) announced Thursday he will not seek re-election, according to an announcement sent out by Senate leader Phil Berger’s office. The fiery Republican and dentist from Mecklenburg County was first elected in 1996 and became one of Berger’s inner circle, championing tax reform, fiscal conservatism and voter ID requirements, among other conservative stances.

Rucho, 67, usually declined to mask his disdain for those who disagree with him or his methods, especially when they were in his own party. He once made it clear that he thought Gov. Pat McCrory and then-House Speaker Thom Tillis lacked the backbone to push what he considered true tax reform into law.

But Rucho was also known as principled and effective, always fighting for what he thought was right against the entrenched interests on the left and right.

“From my first day in the legislature, I’ve known that Bob Rucho was committed to real and lasting change in Raleigh,” said Berger of his friend and former roommate. “Rarely do you see someone work so hard, and throw themselves so tenaciously into a project or policy they’ve been asked to tackle. It was Bob’s vision and conservative principles, especially regarding tax reform, that gave direction and intellectual heft to Republican legislators’ historic improvements for the people of North Carolina. He is my friend and I don’t want him to go, but I know he deserves a rest and I wish him and Theresa a wonderful retirement.”

Rucho’s signature achievement was the tax reform that passed the General Assembly in 2013 and was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory (R).

“Bob was the driving force behind the tax reform package which has been heralded across the nation,” said Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie). “He tirelessly worked to enrich the lives of all North Carolinians.”

Rucho was proud of the reform package but had wanted the law to go even further than it did. He even resigned his committee chairmanship at one point in the process to oppose what he thought were impurities making their way into the plan.

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Bob Rucho (R-Matthews)

“We as elected officials need to do what is right because the people are counting on us to listen to them rather than special interests,” Rucho said in the midst of the tax reform debate. “For too long, special interests have run the system.”

In the end, conservative and pro-business groups lauded the reform package, which cut taxes for individuals and corporations and moved the state closer to a consumption-based tax system from an income-based system. Liberal groups said the reforms favored the wealthy and would cause financial catastrophe for the state.

Rucho may have gotten the last laugh this summer regarding that final prediction. The state posted a $445 million surplus on revenue that triggered even further tax reductions. The state also recently moved up to No. 2 on Forbes’ list of best states for business and careers in the nation.

“My goal was to help win a conservative legislative majority and make bold changes to secure a better future for North Carolina families,” Rucho said in the statement. “I’m confident the state is better off now than when we started, and that a pathway to greater opportunity and prosperity for all North Carolinians is in place. I hope future legislative leaders show the political will to do the right thing and the discipline to stay the course.”