Ross to leave NC legislature, takes job at transit group

Raleigh Democrat Deborah Ross is leaving the legislature for a job with the Triangle Transit.

Ross, a Wake Democrat and attorney, is in her sixth term in the state House of Representatives and had spoken out against many of the initiatives in the Republican-led legislatures in recent years. Her new position will be as general counsel for Triangle Transit, the public transportation organization for the Triangle area.

Rep. Deborah Ross

Triangle Transit announced her hiring Wednesday morning in a press release. She will be making $165,000 a year at the public agency.

“This is one of those opportunities that doesn’t come up very often,” Ross said in a phone interview. “Transit is one of the issues that I’ve been 100 percent committed to.”

Ross, in addition to her work at the legislature, practices law at the Raleigh firm Styers, Kemerait & Mitchell and is a lecturing fellow at the Duke Law School.

Grier Martin, a former legislator, had stepped aside when he and Ross were redistricted into the same seat. Ross, who said she plans on staying on until Wake Democrats find a replacement to serve out her term, said she would support Martin taking over the seat “150 percent.”

Instead of engaging in a primary election battle for the seat in 2012, Martin decided not to run. He criticized the redistricting and double-bunking at the time, saying it was part of a larger pattern to target female legislators.

“In targeting female legislators, in particular, they’ve hit a new low,” Martin said in a statement last February, according to a post from Raleigh’s Independent Weekly.  “And, they’ve tried to make me part of that plan by double-bunking me with Rep. Ross.”

Ross’s resignation as she and her fellow Democrats find themselves in the legislature with little say or sway over pending legislation, with a Republican super majority making most of the calls on Jones Street.

It’s a sharp reversal to the Democratic-controlled legislature that Ross encountered when she first took office.

“Things are very different now,” Ross said about the present-day legislature. “Some of the things I’ll miss, I already miss.”

Martin, an attorney by trade and lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, said that he’s looking forward to returning to the legislature, provided he’s selected to fill out Ross’s term.

“I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” he said. “There’s work that needs to be done.”

Of course, Ross’s departure from the General Assembly will not be the only significant move coming in 2014. The Charlotte Observer has this story today on state Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Mecklenburg Republican, thought to be on the short list for the House Speaker’s job.

Speaker Thom Tillis has already announced he won’t seek any more terms in the state legislature with speculation that he could make a bid to challenge U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan for her seat in 2014.

(Note: This post has changed from the original to include additional information about Ross’ salary and comments from Grier Martin.)

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