One of the remaining registered Democrats on a North Carolina Supreme Court whose new Republican majority recently overturned previous decisions on gerrymandering and voter identification announced Thursday that he won't seek reelection next year.

Associate Justice Mike Morgan's election in 2016 to an eight-year term gave Democrats a majority on the court for the first time in nearly 20 years. The court returned to a 5-2 majority favoring registered Republicans in January after two GOP election victories.

Morgan announced his decision not to run in a tweet, citing 34 years of judicial service, which includes serving as a Wake County trial judge and state administrative law judge.

Looking ahead, Morgan told The Associated Press he was now considering “other options that have been afforded” to him.

“I feel as though as my public service speaks for itself, and I am in a position now to make an even greater difference in North Carolina in another capacity,” Morgan said in an interview.

Morgan didn't provide details, but when asked whether that could include a run at another elected position, he said “At this stage, I am keeping all of my options open.”

He also couldn't say whether he would serve the remainder of his current term through the end of next year. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper would appoint someone to fill his seat should he leave early.

Court of Appeals Judge Jefferson Griffin, a Republican, already announced in January that he would run for Morgan's seat — the only one currently up for election in 2024. The current election sequence means Democrats likely won't have another opportunity to obtain a majority until at least 2028.

Shortly after taking the court majority in January, Republicans agreed to reconsider rulings made by the 4-3 Democratic majority that struck down legislative and congressional district maps as illegal gerrymanders and upheld a lower-court ruling that a 2018 photo voter ID law was unconstitutional from racial bias.

Just three weeks ago, the court’s new iteration overturned the redistricting decisions, determining that the state constitution leaves mapmaking to the General Assembly and lacks limits that prohibit partisan gerrymandering. And at the same time, it said the voter ID law was wrongly voided and should be enforced.

Morgan and Democratic Associate Justice Anita Earls delivered blistering dissenting opinions in these cases.

Morgan, who is Black, wrote in the voter ID dissenting opinion that the majority had “emboldened themselves to infuse partisan politics brazenly into the outcome of the present case” by rehearing the matter. He also wrote that trial judges had appropriately examined past racial discrimination in North Carolina while making its decision.

Morgan said Thursday that while he certainly wished “the atmosphere and the orientation of this current court” were different, “nonetheless I served the institution of the court with pride and with integrity.”

Current law requires justices to retire in the month that they turn 72. That would have allowed Morgan, now 67, to serve close to three years of a second term had he been reelected in 2024. The governor fills vacancies for such retirements as well. The General Assembly is considering this year legislation that would extend the mandatory retirement age to 76 for appellate court judges.

Morgan grew up in New Bern and went to the North Carolina Central University School of Law. He worked in the state Department of Justice for 10 years before being appointed an administrative law judge in 1989. While on the state Supreme Court, Morgan has been known at times to break with Democratic colleagues and side with Republicans on criminal justice matters.

Copyright 2023 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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