(WGHP) –Just after the North Carolina General Assembly gave final approval Wednesday to a new congressional map favoring Republicans, a former congressman announced he is dropping out of the Republican primary for governor to try to win back his seat in the U.S. House.

Ex-U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a former Baptist pastor from Greensboro, launched a bid Wednesday to reclaim the district he had represented on Capitol Hill for six years. He held the seat until a previous redistricting cycle opened the door for Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning to take office.

“I didn’t really leave voluntarily,” Walker said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Now that the General Assembly has restored the 6th District to how it’s historically been represented, which is conservative Republican, it felt like this was the right time to reengage with everything going on in the country.”

The Republican-led General Assembly approved a plan Wednesday for North Carolina’s 14 U.S. House seats, creating 10 districts that appear to favor Republicans, three that favor Democrats and one that could be considered competitive, according to statewide election data. Each party currently holds seven of the state’s congressional seats.

The state Supreme Court flipped from a Democratic to a Republican majority in the 2022 elections, and the panel ruled in April that the state constitution placed no limits on shifting district lines for partisan gain. The ruling gave state lawmakers the freedom to fashion new boundaries that could help the GOP pick up at least three seats in the U.S. House next year.

Walker served three terms in Congress from 2015 to 2021. He ran unsuccessfully in the state’s 2022 U.S. Senate primary. In May, he entered a crowded field for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, joining Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and State Treasurer Dale Folwell.

Walker now plans to challenge Manning, a second-term congresswoman, who said in a statement last week that the newly Republican-leaning 6th Congressional District takes away her constituents’ rights to fair representation by lumping together several vastly different counties.

Walker said he no longer saw “a clear path forward” to win the gubernatorial nomination and determined that dropping out would give Republicans a better shot of winning the office, which has been held by Democrats for much of the past three decades.

State Attorney General Josh Stein and former state Supreme Court Associate Justice Mike Morgan are competing for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Republican supermajorities in the General Assembly passed legislation this year limiting the governor’s power to appoint people to key boards and commissions, which Walker said was a deterrent to continuing his gubernatorial campaign.

“With the supermajorities in the statehouse, it really put parameters on what a governor can actually lead or execute in that branch of government,” he said. “We just came to the conclusion that if we were going to maximize our service, we felt like this was the best path to move forward.”

He released a statement on Wednesday afternoon, which is provided below:

With the new congressional district maps being made public last week, Kelly and I have been overwhelmed with the number of grassroots citizens and officials reaching out for us to consider taking the fight back to Congress. Before I was redistricted out of North Carolina’s 6th district by a leftist lawsuit and a handful of Raleigh elites, I was honored to serve the people of High Point and central North Carolina in the U.S. Congress.

I was the first member elected to chair the Republican Study Committee–the largest caucus in Congress–after only one term. I was also blessed to serve as Vice Chair of the Republican Conference and departed as the highest rated conservative to ever serve in U.S. House leadership. To this day, I’m the last member of Congress to secure a floor vote on a balanced budget amendment and I’m just as proud of incredible team closing over 1,800 veteran cases.

It is this conservative record that has sheriffs and state legislators across central North Carolina–as well as more than 40 congressional colleagues–supporting a growing effort for me to yet again represent the good people of central North Carolina in the U.S. House. I’m also elated to announce that I have the support of the new Speaker of the House and my dear friend, Speaker Mike Johnson.

Transparently, it would be disingenuous of me to act as if there were a clear path in the gubernatorial race. That door has not opened. We have some solid Republican candidates running for Governor, and all would be superior to Democrat Josh Stein. After spending a few days is DC this month, I’m reminded of the grind of Congressional service that can be mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausting. However, there exists a radical movement designed to steal the very soul of our nation–including the hearts and minds of an entire generation. That’s why it’s crucial we have representation of leaders who live out conservative principles everyday being grounded in a genuine faith in our Creator, God Almighty.

It’s also why I’m announcing my plans to return to the U.S. House, placing the 6th district back to where it has historically been–represented by a conservative Republican. Having previously represented 13 NC counties, I look forward to representing many friends as well as family members in the new 6th including all of Rowan, Davidson and Davie Counties and parts of Cabarrus, Forsyth, as well as our home county of Guilford.

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I’ve been amazed at the encouragement coming from the 6th district and across the state, and I’m delighted to share that since the maps were released only a week ago, our campaign has already received close to 500K in pledges from supporters across North Carolina as we’ve been looking at the 6th district.

It’s been my honor to spend the bulk of my adult life in service, first as a pastor in the Triad for 16 sixteen years as well as spending 6 years representing the citizens of central NC in the halls of Congress. Boldly stated, there is no other candidate that can match my experience and my strong, conservative record.

In gratitude for a wide range of support from North Carolina to DC, I am now stepping away from the gubernatorial race and move forward in the Congressional race with great hope and expectation for this crucial moment in the history of our great nation. May God provide the path and the courage to follow.

Congressman Mark Walker