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Coble retires in North Carolina

Longtime Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) will retire in 2014 after 15 terms in the House, setting up a competitive GOP primary in his safe Republican district.
U.S. Representatives Shimkus and Coble arrive for a late night closed-door meeting of the House Republican caucus during a rare Saturday session at the U.S. Capitol
U.S. Representative Howard Coble (L) arrives with Representative John Shimkus for a meeting of the House Republican caucus, September 28, 2013.

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

Coble, who is serving his 15th term in the House, has 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, 82, 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 eaily ever since.

A reliably Republican district, a crowded GOP primary will likely pick the next congressman. The district voted 58% for Mitt Romney in 2012 and 56% 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 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 -- all Republicans --  to announce he won't seek another term in 2014.