This is really bad news. The redistricting map in North Carolina was particularly brutal to Democrats. Though they have a Democratic governor, Bev Perdue, she plays no formal role in the process, and the heavily Republican legislature gerrymandered the maps to within an inch of their life. A state that will be a swing state on Election Day in the Presidential race could have as much as a 10-3 split in their House delegation. One of the consequences of this was that Brad Miller was drawn into a nearly impossible Republican district. There was an alternative, a heavily Democratic district with lines a block from his home; but Rep. David Price also lived there. Price is African-American; Miller is white. The district had a heavy minority population. (UPDATE: I completely confused Price with Mel Watt. My apologies. My understanding is that Price has represented most of this district previous, and Miller has not; that’s the sticking point.) And Miller is an exceedingly nice guy. So not wanting to face a fellow Democrat, Miller blinked (I’m assuming after seeing polling showing that this would be an uphill battle).

U.S. Rep. Brad Miller said Wednesday he will not seek another term in the U.S. House because he does not want to face another Democratic veteran in this spring’s primary.

Miller, 58, a Democrat first elected to Congress in 2002, lives in Raleigh but has represented a district that runs along the Virginia border to Rockingham County and then dips into Greensboro.

“I had not planned to spend the rest of my natural life, or even my career, in Congress,” he said.

Miller, a mainstay on the House Financial Services Committee, has the best knowledge of the mortgage and foreclosure crisis of perhaps anyone in Congress right now. He also has had the best ideas on how to fix it. Cram-down was his bill. So was the legislation that led to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He tried to advance a modern-day HOLC (Home Owner’s Loan Corporation) to buy up properties and negotiate new mortgages with the owners. He is well-versed on foreclosure fraud and has been a critic of the 50-state settlement, as well as a champion of the novel idea that criminals should be prosecuted. There’s just not really anyone else like him in Congress, who understands these issues and won’t be snookered by bank lobbyists.

Miller could always return if Price retired (there was a hope that he would retire this year), but it sounds like he won’t run for public office again. That’s quite a loss.

“Others will need to step up and play a greater role,” Miller said about his consumer protection efforts. That will be a tall order. I was happy to speak with Miller on a number of occasions and admired his talent as a public servant. He will be missed.

David Dayen

David Dayen