WASHINGTON – The House's newest member, Democrat G.K. Butterfield (search) of North Carolina, was sworn in Wednesday, filling the state's 1st District seat vacated in June by the resignation of freshman Rep. Frank Ballance (search).
A retired judge, Butterfield, 57, won more than 70 percent of the vote in a special election Tuesday to represent the district until January. He will again face the opponent he defeated, Republican Greg Dority (search), in a general election for a new two-year term in November.
Butterfield retired in May from the North Carolina Superior Court bench, ending a 15-year judicial career that included one year on the state Supreme Court.
"Tobacco farmers in North Carolina are facing a crisis that this Congress is now addressing," Butterfield told his new colleagues in a short speech on the House floor. "The people of the 1st District are no different than your constituents - they want our government to work to allow all people to experience the American dream."
Butterfield said his top priorities are fighting for a tobacco buyout deal as part of a broad corporate tax bill and bringing high-wage jobs to his largely rural district. He said he hopes to get seat on the House Agriculture Committee.
"We've got to turn this economy around in eastern North Carolina," he said.
Ballance, 62, dropped a bid for re-election to a second term in May, citing a neuromuscular illness that he said made him unable to carry out the duties of his office.
A drug and alcohol counseling program that Ballance founded in northeastern North Carolina is now the subject of a joint federal-state investigation.