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Opportunities Now and Later in North Carolina

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
GOP operatives say it’s unclear whether Burr will seek a third term. If he retires, strategists say a competitive contest with crowded primaries would ensue.

It’s a good cycle to be a congressional hopeful in North Carolina — but that doesn’t mean there won’t be more prime opportunities soon.

The recent round of redistricting solidified GOP control of the state legislature and the congressional delegation. But with two House seats open next year and a GOP opportunity to oust Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, the North Carolina bench is emptying into 2014 races.

“From a Republican perspective, in the last two elections they have seen more success than in the whole history of their party in this state, so there are more people that say, ‘Hey, not only can you run and win, you can run and serve for a long time,’” said North Carolina Republican operative Paul Shumaker of 2014’s crowded GOP primaries.

At least eight Republicans are vying for the opportunity to unseat Hagan in 2014. And the retirement of 15-term GOP Rep. Howard Coble, plus 11-term Democratic Rep. Melvin Watt’s confirmation to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency, have sparked crowded primaries in their respective safe partisan seats.

To be sure, North Carolina has recently proved to be more competitive on a statewide level, thanks in part to suburban growth around Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham. After Hagan’s battle this cycle, the next big statewide contest will come in 2016.

GOP operatives say it’s unclear whether Republican Sen. Richard M. Burr will seek a third term. If he retires, strategists say a competitive contest with crowded primaries would ensue.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the former mayor of Charlotte, is eyeing that Senate seat in 2016, according to multiple Democratic sources. He could run regardless of whether Burr seeks re-election.

“Statewide Senate races get bluer and bluer,” said North Carolina Democratic operative Morgan Jackson. “As long as we have the right candidate, we could knock off Burr.”

Local Democrats named several other potential candidates who could run for Burr’s seat:

Janet Cowell, the first woman elected state treasurer, who operatives said has a good rapport with both parties.

State Sen. Josh Stein, who serves as minority whip.

State Rep. Grier Martin, who represents a chunk of Raleigh.

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, an independent who ran with the support of the local Democratic Party.

If Burr retires, GOP operatives say that a number of House members could run to succeed him. That list included freshmen GOP Reps. Robert Pittenger, Mark Meadows and George Holding. Republicans say Holding would likely be the most viable of the three, citing in part his vast personal fortune. Holding’s family owns First Citizens Bank, and they ran a super PAC to help boost his 2012 House bid.

Republicans named several other potential GOP candidates for Senate, including:

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