Source: Jim Morril, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/27/10; Gary D Robertson, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 2/26/10
Republican candidates have come out in droves this year, setting up crowded congressional primaries, competing for every state Senate seat and challenging incumbents in what are generally considered safe Democratic districts. "Republicans are galvanized and they sense a historic opportunity," said state GOP chairman Tom Fetzer. Friday's final day of filing saw a spike in candidates from both major parties. Many face a 66-day sprint to the May 4 primary. Republicans are contesting all 50 state Senate seats, and the party has recruited candidates in key House districts. In congressional races, Republicans are fielding a total of 48 candidates, compared to just 19 two years ago.
Several factors are motivating Republicans. There have been big GOP wins recently in states such as New Jersey and Massachusetts. In North Carolina, former Gov. Mike Easley and former Sen. John Edwards - both Democrats - are under federal investigation. And a series of high-profile Democratic retirements in the state Senate have opened some seats for the first time in decades. Also, last summer's Tea Party movement energized conservatives unhappy with the Obama administration and the direction of the country. But many Republican incumbents are also facing a wave of primary challengers this year. "Tom Fetzer can call them galvanized. I'd call them more at war with one another," said Andrew Whalen, executive director of the state Democratic Party. GOP U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, for example, faces three primary challengers. At least one has sought to portray himself as more conservative. Twelve of the state's 13 U.S. House seats will have GOP primaries May 4, including four of the five with Republican incumbents. Three of the eight Democratic House members have primary opponents.
The U.S. Senate race tops the ballot and 11 people, including Burr, filed the paperwork to run. Susan Harris of Old Fort became the sixth Democrat to file Friday. One of the four Republicans is former state Rep. Larry Linney, who was convicted of embezzlement and disbarred as a lawyer for taking $10,000 from a dead client's estate. Convicted felons such as Linney can run again after they complete their punishments, according to state elections officials. In state legislative races, voters in 39 of the 50 state Senate districts and 82 of the 120 state House districts will get to choose candidates from two or three parties in the fall. In 2006, about half of the 170 districts had only one major-party candidate in November. The lists of Senate departures grew Friday as Sen. Katie Dorsett. D-Guilford, withdrew her candidacy two weeks after she filed. Dorsett, a four-term senator and former Cabinet secretary, said she wanted to spend more time with her family and had been open to stepping down if fellow Democrat Gladys Robinson wanted to run. Robinson filed Friday. Former House Co-Speaker Richard Morgan, R-Moore, filed to challenge Sen. Harris Blake in a Senate primary. The winner will win the seat because no Democrat filed.