The Rev. Mark Harris told a meeting of more than 200 supporters in North Carolina Thursday that he will formally launch a Senate campaign on Oct. 2, according to his consultant Tom Perdue.
Speaking to the group in Clemmons, a suburb of Winston-Salem, Harris confirmed that after 117 meetings during a 70-county listening tour this summer, he has decided to challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.
According to Perdue, a longtime consultant to Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Harris also announced that former Rep. Robin Hayes, who most recently served as state party chairman, and longtime state political activist Mary Frances Forrester would chair the campaign.
“Now Mark is the conservative in this campaign,” Perdue told CQ Roll Call.
Harris is the latest Republican to announce a challenge to Hagan, joining at least six others including state Speaker Thom Tillis and conservative activist Greg Brannon. North Carolina Senate President Phil Berger and former ambassador to Denmark Jim Cain are also considering bids.
Hagan is among the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in 2014. But she's been on a fundraising binge this year — with $4.2 million in the bank as of June 30 — and polls have only confirmed that the race will likely be competitive.
Harris is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Charlotte and is currently serving his second term as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Responding to Harris' ensuing candidacy, Robert Dempsey, executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, said Harris “is from the Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee wing of the Republican Party.”
“Mark Harris might not have the deep unpopularity of the legislature, but his agenda is a perfect match for the extremists in the general assembly,” Dempsey said.
The race is currently rated Tossup/Tilt-Democrat by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.