Ed Hanes, a Democrat who represented Winston-Salem in the North Carolina General Assembly, has resigned.
Hanes announced Tuesday that he would retire effective immediately, and that he wants a Winston-Salem City Council member, Derwin Montgomery, to replace him in the state House.
A newspaper in his hometown, the Winston-Salem Chronicle, first reported Hanes’ announcement. Montgomery, a 2010 graduate of Winston-Salem State University, is also a co-owner of the Chronicle.
“It has been an honor and a great privilege to serve and represent my friends and neighbors in District 72,” Hanes said, according to the Chronicle. “I thank my family for their support during my time of service.”
Hanes confirmed the reports to The NC Insider later Tuesday, saying “a good opportunity” came up that “demands my immediate attention.” He wouldn’t say what that opportunity was, only that there would be more information to come.
It’s unclear if Hanes’ history with campaign finance violations played a role in his resignation. State elections officials have fined Hanes for violations in past years, but couldn’t immediately be reached Tuesday afternoon for comment.
Hanes has been in the legislature since 2012. He represents a solidly Democratic district and faced an opponent this November in a relatively unknown Republican challenger named Reginald Reid. It’s unclear so far who will fill out the rest of his term and replace him on the ballot as the Democratic candidate in the midterm elections this November.
Hanes said the local Democratic Party will meet this Sunday to decide who’s on the ballot, and he wants Montgomery to get the nod.
“When I spoke with leadership, once I got everything confirmed over the weekend ... there was the feeling that his name could be on the ballot,” Hanes told The Insider.
Hanes had ups and downs during his six years in office.
He was one of the few Democrats in the legislature this year to sponsor a major piece of legislation that ended up becoming law. Hanes and Republican Rep. Chris Malone, a Wake Forest Republican, co-sponsored a bill that will make it easier for smart, low-income children to access gifted classes.
Their bill was then combined with a wider-ranging educational reform bill that became law with near-unanimous support in June.
Hanes and Malone sponsored their changes in response to an investigative series by The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer, which found that schools all around North Carolina were routinely passing over intelligent children from low-income households, in favor of children from more affluent families who had similar or even lower test scores.
“That truth is that thousands of low-income children who get superior marks on end-of-grade tests are not getting an equal shot at advanced math classes designed to challenge these students,” Hanes said at the time. “They are being intentionally left out.”
Hanes had also made allies with Republicans after he became one of few Democratic politicians to cross party lines and support a new voucher program, which gives families in North Carolina taxpayer money to pay for tuition at private schools.
But Hanes had also faced some scandal while in office.
Earlier this year, state auditors found he had taken improper donations and also had been using his campaign donors’ contributions to pay for purely personal purchases.
After auditors uncovered he had charged his campaign for expenses in 2016 at a Singapore gift shop, a Chapel Hill athletics store and on a “gym consultation fee” and other personal purchases, he paid the state a fine of more than $1,000.
“I greatly regret any negative appearance that may have arisen from my previous reporting efforts,” Hanes told the N&O at the time. “I thank the State Board of Elections for their efforts in helping my team identify and rectify those discrepancies.”
A separate N&O analysis of Hanes’ political spending in 2017 — which at the time had not been audited by the state — found that his campaign had spent nearly $20,000 on meals and travel that year.
However, that type of spending is not rare among North Carolina politicians, who are allowed to spend campaign money on virtually anything that might be related to holding or running for office.