GREENSBORO, N.C. — U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, 82, announced Thursday he will retire and will not seek re-election.
Coble has served North Carolina’s 6th congressional district since he was first elected in 1984.
Coble made the announcement during a news conference Thursday at the Guilford County Republican Party Headquarters on West Market Street in Greensboro.
Joking with the media, Coble said “Some of you may disagree with this, but mentally, I’m stable and reliable.”
He cited health concerns as the reason he decided against seeking re-election. He said he has ongoing back problems, is still recovering from skin cancer. He also mentioned recent kidney issues.
Coble apologized to those disappointed because he has decided to retire.
“It’s time for me to step aside,” Coble said.
During the news conference, Coble was presented with his very first election sign from 1984. He signed the back of the sign every time he won, and signed it for the last time Thursday.
Coble easily won re-election in 2012 for his 15th term in District 6. He decided to run again despite some health problems that included a two-week stay in the hospital with a respiratory infection in 2011 and back surgery in 2012.
Coble has been admitted to the hospital multiple times over the past few years, most recently in July after he underwent hernia surgery.
Coble said he had intended to run again in 2014. “But if I’m not physically capable of going full ahead I fear it would probably have a negative impact on the campaign. So I have dismissed that proposal and decided I will not seek re-election.”
Candidates already running to represent the 6th District in 2014 include Mark Walker, Don Webb and Laura Fjeld.
Walker said at Thursday’s press conference, “There are incredible shoes to fill. It may take two or three just to fill!”
Bill Flynn, who ran against Coble in 2012 but lost, said at the press conference, “I have plans, but on this day I’m gonna just say this is Howard Coble’s day.”
Flynn added, “The one word I would have is historic. This man has been serving in Congress and doing the public’s work for decades. A lot of us can’t remember a time when he wasn’t there.”
With Coble stepping down, some candidates who might consider running for his seat include Phil Berger Jr., who has said he would only run if Coble retired.
Berger told Fox8 today, “Today’s about Howard and his service to the people of this district. There will be plenty of time to talk about Phil Berger in the future, but today’s celebrating Howard.”
Other candidates who may consider running include Bill Wright, the former mayor of Pleasant Garden, and Tom Manning, the chairman of the Alamance County Board of Commissioners, who have both said they would run if Coble retired.
Fox8 asked Mayor Joines in Winston-Salem whether he’d considered running. He said he hadn’t given it much thought but that an empty seat was interesting.
Former Guilford County Commissioner Billy Yow said he has not ruled out a run.
Congressman Coble said he is not endorsing any candidate yet. “I thank the candidates who’ve stepped forward. Some candidates said they would not run if I ran, and I thank them for that courtesy. You didn’t owe me that, but I thank you for it.”
Coble, who was born in Greensboro, graduated from Guilford College. He later received a law degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law.
In 1973, Coble became head of the N.C. Department of Revenue under Gov. James Holshouser. In 1984, Coble defeated Democratic Rep. Robin Britt to win his House seat.
Coble is also a senior member of the Judiciary and Transportation and Infrastructure panels.
Dena Barnes, President of the North Carolina Federation of Rebublican Women added, “Whoever comes after him is gonna have big shoes to fill. They’re gonna have to work hard and make a lot of hard decisions because the country really needs a lot of help.”
When asked which church in his district has the best food, Coble didn’t hesitate. “Mt. Hope’s annual chicken pie dinner that was held last Saturday night.”
In his remaining time as Congressman, Coble plans to push more Copyright reform and a transportation bill.
“We’re gonna be around a while. We’re not going anywhere quickly,” Coble reminded.