July 10, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Democrats Continue Tar Heel State Talent Hunt

At times this year it has seemed as if Democrats have been working to select their 2010 challenger to Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) through a process of elimination.

Although Burr’s recent polling numbers have Democrats smelling blood, the party has heard many more “noes” than “yeses” when it comes to its recruiting efforts.

But despite big names like state Attorney General Roy Cooper and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton passing on the race, a few heavy hitters remain in the mix, including Democratic Reps. Heath Shuler and Mike McIntyre.

After declaring his intention to run for re-election earlier this year, Shuler has more recently indicated that he might be taking a second look at the Senate race. McIntyre has also recently hinted that he might be open to a Senate run.

Either would become the instant frontrunner in a Democratic primary that has so far only drawn second-tier candidates. And either would likely earn the support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the party establishment.

But some recent chatter has begun to focus on the potential candidacy of Cal Cunningham (D), a lawyer and former state Senator who served in the Iraq War and is currently part of the Army Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps.

“I’m having conversations with friends and fellow Democrats,” Cunningham said on Wednesday. “We’re taking a very close and very serious look at this race.”

Like Shuler and McIntyre, Cunningham has given little indication as to when he plans to make an announcement on the race.

“I know that for North Carolina and for the Democratic Party here that I need to make a timely decision,” he said.

Former Tar Heel state Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Meek said this week that if Cunningham were to enter the race, he would be someone who would have to be taken seriously.

“He’s got an excellent profile in terms of his biography,” Meek said. “He’s perceived as being a little bit more liberal than, say, Mike McIntyre and Heath Shuler.”

If one of the Congressmen decides to run and the DSCC and local party leaders can’t clear the field, Cunningham could be a dark horse in a primary where the electorate would be mostly hard-core Democrats in a midterm election.

“There’s certainly going to be some folks who perceive Shuler or McIntyre as being too conservative,” he said.

A few other Democrats who are being mentioned are state Sen. Dan Blue, attorney and former Obama fundraiser Kenneth Lewis and Rep. Brad Miller, although Miller said this week that he has no plans to run and has not spoken to the DSCC.

As speculation continues to mount over who will step up to take on the first-term Senator, Burr’s campaign consultant, Paul Shumaker, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Democratic recruitment game in North Carolina goes on well into the summer and fall.

“Let the Democrats do what the Democrats need to go through,” Shumaker said. “We’re focused on ... building the fundamentals of a strong campaign for next year.”

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