Raleigh, N.C. — Sate Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said Tuesday he hasn't decided whether to run for U.S. Senate.
Earlier this summer, Berger said he would make a decision by the end of July. With that deadline well gone, Berger said he is still talking over the potential campaign with local and national Republicans alike.
"I don't have an announcement as of now," Berger said shortly after the state Senate finished work for the day Tuesday.
If Berger were to get into the race, he would face House Speaker Thom Tillis in the Republican primary, setting up a showdown between the state's two top legislative leaders.
Dr. Greg Brannon, a Cary gynecologist with political roots in the tea party movement, also has said he will run in the Republican primary. The winner would face Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who first won election in 2008 against then Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole.
Over the Labor Day weekend, a few political insiders pointed to a fundraising letter in which Berger said that "besides raising money for my own re-election, I am responsible as the President Pro Tempore of the Senate for protecting our Republican majority by assisting other Republican senate candidates and members across the state."
To some eyes, that looked like a declaration that Berger would run for re-election to his state Senate seat.
But Berger said political watchers shouldn't read too much into that kind of letter, which is an almost pro forma fundraising pitch meant to keep the Senate Republican Caucus coffers filled.
"That's not a definitive letter," Berger said. "I continue to have in my view a responsibility to make sure that the North Carolina Senate Republicans are prepared to run for re-election."
As for the timing of his announcement, Berger observed that Hagan, who was herself a state senator in 2007, didn't announce she would run for U.S. Senate until October. Berger said he didn't expect to make an announcement in October.