Sixth GOP House member announces retirement; Republicans expected to easily hold seat

Longtime Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) will retire in 2014 after 15 terms in the House, he announced at a press conference Thursday in his Greensboro district. 

Coble, 82, had been plagued by health problems in recent years, and his decision not to run hardly comes as a surprise. First elected to the House in 1984, Coble is the Tar Heel State's longest-serving Republican in the House. Before beginning his nearly three decade-long career in Congress, he served in the Coast Guard, was an assistant U.S. attorney, a state representative and the state revenue commissioner. 

Once a swing area, the 5th District is now reliably Republican after redistricting. In 1986, Coble narrowly won a second term by just 79 votes, but has been re-elected easily ever since.

A crowded GOP primary will likely pick the next congressman. The district voted 58 percent for Mitt Romney in 2012 and 56 percent for John McCain in 2008. Likely candidates include Phil Berger, Jr., the son of state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, who told the Raleigh News & Observer he would run if Coble didn't, along with former Forsyth County GOP Chair Nathan Tabor and Greensboro minister Mark Walker. According to GOP sources, other names mentioned include 6th District GOP Chairman Al Daoud, and former NASCAR driver Terry Labonte.

Democrats still face an uphill climb, but two candidates have already announced -- Laura Fjeld, a former University of North Carolina system vice president and general counsel, and Durham County Soil & Water District Supervisor Danielle Adams.

Coble is the sixth House member to announce he won't seek another term in 2014, all Republicans.