Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D)
Elected: July 2004, 3rd full term.
Born: April 27, 1947, Wilson .
Education: NC Central U., B.A. 1971, J.D. 1974.
Family: Divorced; 2 children.
Military career: Army, 1968-70.
Elected office: NC Superior Ct., 1988-2001, 2002-04; NC Supreme Ct., 2001-02.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1974-88.
The congressman from the 1st District is G.K. (George Kenneth) Butterfield, a Democrat who won a special election in July 2004. Butterfield grew up in Wilson County, where his father was a dentist and the first black elected official in Wilson in the 20th century. His mother was a schoolteacher for 48 years. He got his bachelor’s degree and a law degree from North Carolina Central University. A civil rights lawyer who represented poor people, Butterfield took on many voting rights cases. As a Superior Court judge for 12 years, he handled thousands of civil and criminal cases in 46 counties until February 2001, when Democratic Gov. Michael Easley appointed him to the state Supreme Court. After Butterfield lost election in 2002 to a full term, Easley appointed him as a special Superior Court judge. In the July 2004 special election to replace the retiring Democratic Rep. Frank Balance, who later pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges in the operation of his antidrug foundation, party caucuses selected the nominees, and the six-week contest in this safe Democratic district received little local or national attention. Butterfield said that his priorities would be strengthening the rural economy and halting U.S. job losses. He won 71%-27% and has not been seriously challenged since.
|G.K. Butterfield (D)||192,765||(70%)||($703,692)|
|Dean Stephens (R)||81,506||(30%)|
|G.K. Butterfield (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (100%), 2004 (64%), 2004 (71%)
In the House, he has a liberal voting record. One of his issues was urging the Federal Communications Commission to move slowly to all-digital cable television. “In poor rural places like eastern North Carolina, this could leave a lot of people in the dark when it comes to watching television,” he said. He lobbied to include in an exhibit in the new Capitol Visitor Center a portrayal of the slave labor that was employed in building the Capitol and a description of the careers of the 22 African-Americans who served in Congress during and following Reconstruction. He also pushed for renewal of the Voting Rights Act, noting that his father lost his seat on the local city council in 1957 because of a discriminatory voting law change.
A longtime friend of Democratic Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, Butterfield managed his successful campaign for majority whip in 2006, and the two were virtually inseparable for 12 days before the November election—in South Carolina and at campaign events across the nation. Butterfield said, “I was his conscience and insisted that he make his calls. He called about 200 members, with the help of four or five cellphones and an occasional staffer. Now he is grateful to me.” In 2009, Butterfield became secretary of the Congressional Black Caucus, an influential faction in the House.
With his connections to the leadership, Butterfield got a seat in 2007 on the influential Energy and Commerce Committee, where he has worked to prohibit states from passing on their Medicaid costs to counties. In his district, many counties spend more of their property-tax revenues on Medicaid than on the public schools. He advocated incentives to develop energy from hog and chicken waste. With vestiges of tobacco farming in his district, Butterfield fought to limit the size of an increase in the cigarette tax when House Democrats identified the tax as a source to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. In May 2007, Butterfield worked with Rep. David Price, D-N.C., for House passage of a ban on a Navy airstrip planned in Washington and Beaufort counties. Like many older African-Americans, Butterfield was deeply moved by Barack Obama’s election as president. “I did not think it would happen in my lifetime,” he said.