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10 Races to Watch in 2016: North Carolina Senate

Burr is a Republican from North Carolina. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Tar Heel State residents should enjoy the absence of political ads on their airwaves while they can.  

The 2016 Senate race in North Carolina could be just as competitive as the 2014 contest, which flooded local televisions with more than $100 million in political ads to become one of the most expensive congressional races in history. Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., has said he will seek re-election , and some Democrats hope outgoing Sen. Kay Hagan will challenge him. Hagan lost her seat last month to Sen.-elect Thom Tillis. But almost immediately after her defeat, Democrats started talking about a potential comeback campaign in 2016. She ran one of the best campaigns last cycle, and she has not ruled out  running again.  

Even if Hagan does not run, the Democratic bench is not empty. North Carolina operatives say outgoing Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., a moderate Democrat who opted not to face another grueling re-election bid, could decide to run. Former state Sen. Cal Cunningham could also be a strong contender. Democrats might also try to recruit Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, but he has said he does not plan to run. State Treasurer Janet Cowell or state Rep. Grier Martin were also mentioned.  

Burr raised just $200,000 over the past two years, and has only $720,000 in his campaign account. Still, North Carolina Republicans say they believe him when he says he plans to run for re-election.  

But he will have to ramp up his fundraising. North Carolina has cemented its reputation as a competitive — and expensive — state. And in 2016, the high price of buying media in the state's major markets will have competition from the presidential race too.  

Also notable: North Carolina moved up its primary to the Tuesday after South Carolina’s caucuses. Tillis saw a lot of help from would-be Republican presidential nominees in his battle against Hagan; Burr could benefit from that as well.  

Editor's Note: Over two weeks, Roll Call will unveil its Top 10 Races to Watch for 2016. The final edition will run on Jan. 2 with the full list. In no specific order, other races to watch in 2016 include  Illinois Senate Pennsylvania Senate, Florida's 2nd District, and  New York's 11th District Related Stories: 14 Congressional Republicans Jeb Bush Helped Last Cycle How Big Is the Ted Cruz Caucus? Script Will Be Flipped in 2016 Senate Majority Battle How Thom Tillis Defeated One of 2014's Best Campaigns The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.