Despite poll numbers fueling speculation that he might run for U.S. Senate next year, Rep. Patrick McHenry says he'll seek another term in the U.S. House representing Western North Carolina's 10th District.
Over the last few months, surveys conducted by Public Policy Polling have showed McHenry at the top of the pack of potential Republican rivals against Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. But the five-term incumbent says, "I'm grateful for the good numbers, but I think I've got a better opportunity to make a difference here in the House.” He adds, "I want to end the distraction about this potential Senate run so I can get back and focus on the work that I need to be doing to help get this economy going."
Pundits predict that Hagan, a freshman senator who ousted Elizabeth Dole in 2008, will be a top target of national Republican efforts next year. "Our numbers are good, and it's going to be a favorable year, and we've got a weak incumbent, who is a ripe target," says McHenry, who is helping lead the National Republican Congressional Committee's recruitment and outreach efforts.
Other prominent North Carolina Republicans are popping up in the polls as viable challengers to Hagan include Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, 5th District Rep. Virginia Foxx, 2nd District Rep. Renee Ellmers, N.C. Senate Pro Tem Phil Berger, and N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis.
"The great news for Republican prospects for the senate seat is we've got a deep bench," says McHenry. "We've got a talented congressional delegation. We've got great members of the state legislature. So that gives us a great opportunity."
However, the latest Public Policy poll shows Hagan in front of all potential GOP challengers. She also raised more than $1.6 million in the first three months of the year, ending the quarter with $2.7 million cash on hand, according to Politico.
Meanwhile, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy has already thrown her hat in to the ring: She’ll run against McHenry in the 10th District next year. She ran for the congressional seat last year, but lost to then-state Rep. Patsy Keever in the Democratic primary. McHenry beat Keever by a margin of 14 percent.
Asked about Bellamy's challenge, McHenry says he hasn't yet given it much thought. "To each their own," he notes. "I'm focused on doing my day job, and we'll let the voters decide. I think it's premature to have those discussions."
— Jake Frankel can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org.