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Berger says no to US Senate bid

Posted September 22, 2013
Updated September 26, 2013

Sen. Phil Berger

— State Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, says he  will not jump into the Republican melee for the chance to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan next year.

Berger, the powerful president pro tem of the state Senate, has been flirting with a run at Hagan's seat for months. But he said Monday that he would stay out of the 2014 GOP primary. 

"It's just not the right time for me," Berger said Monday morning."That has a lot to do with the situation at the state level. There's a lot of things we've started that I want to see finished."

Lawmakers this year began the massive task of remaking the state's tax system. Although the bill they passed this summer made good on some GOP promises, top state Senate leaders like Berger say they will push further next session. 

Berger, a Rockingham County lawyer, had attracted attention by running a 30-second television spot touting the state's new voter ID law and hitting Hagan for her opposition to the law, which goes into effect in 2016. He was also the subject of a 15-minute video sketching his biography.

But as president pro tem, Berger occupies one of the most powerful positions in state government. He controls the flow of legislation through the state Senate, and during the past legislative session, he helped set the agenda for major policy changes in education, tax reform and the state budget.

A U.S. Senate campaign would have meant trading in an influential post for a rough-and-tumble primary and no certain prospects should he make it to the general election. Hagan has already amassed more than $4 million in her campaign account for a race sure to attract millions more in third-party spending on both sides.

House Speaker Thom Tillis Lively GOP primary expected in 2014 Senate race

Berger's departure leaves House Speaker Thom Tillis as the most well-known contender among the GOP hopefuls. A Berger-Tillis showdown would have been bruising, and in recent days, Berger has encouraged state Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, one of his top lieutenants, to consider a run.

"I do understand that replacing Kay Hagan is one of the most important tasks that we have before us from a political standpoint," Berger said.

Given that unseating Hagan is political job No. 1 for Republicans and the fact that he considered a run for so long and has encouraged others to do the same, does that add up to a lack of confidence in Tillis?

"I think folks will have to draw their own conclusions," he said, adding that Brunstetter would be "a formidable candidate." 

Other candidates already in the race are Cary obstetrician Dr. Greg Brannon and the Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte, the president of the Baptist State Convention. Brannon has been an early favorite among national tea party groups, while Harris is running with the support of Robin Hayes, the past chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party.

53 Comments

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  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Sep 24, 7:56 p.m.

    Maybe McCrory or Wos could get Berger a high-paying job over at the DHHS...h's well over 24 years old..shoud get megabucks!

  • krimson Sep 24, 11:46 a.m.

    "issues that are killing our country"

    Can you list some of these issues???

  • wildpig777 Sep 24, 8:55 a.m.

    Ever hear of Greg Brannon? A whole lot of us have, whether WRAL wants to report it or not. I'm a conservative who could care less about Thom Tillis, although I agree with previous posters that I would also vote for Ronald McDonald over Kay Hagan:-)

    Click to view my profile pianoguy

    are you saying wral tries to shape or censor the news rather than just publish it and let us--their viewers arrive at our own decisions? well if that's what you are saying I totally agree.

  • pianoguy Sep 23, 4:51 p.m.

    I'm happy to hear that Kay Hagan has been helpful to our veterans. Unfortunately, she votes with Obama and his party nearly 100% of the time on issues that are killing our country, and that is why she will NEVER get my vote.

  • balog Sep 23, 4:48 p.m.

    We gotta get rid of Kay Hagan! She is just another Obama worshipper and that is killing us!!!"

    Oh? Pray tel how?

  • 20K Sep 23, 4:14 p.m.

    We gotta get rid of Kay Hagan! She is just another Obama worshipper and that is killing us!!!

  • outdoor592000 Sep 23, 3:56 p.m.

    GOP has seriouls got to change. I voted for them, but not because of what they have been doing since elected. What happend to fiscal responsibility, trimmer govt, less waste. This is the reason why tea party formed, GOP really has gotten out of hand, and not doing what they have preached for so many years. I know sadly the Dems have been crooked for a long time, but GOP in my opinion now, is no different.

  • NcNativeRaleigh Sep 23, 3:53 p.m.

    Too bad, his campaign would have been enjoyable to watch. This GOP corporate welfare entitlement minion may now have time to learn how to shave before putting on a suit.

  • mmtlash Sep 23, 3:50 p.m.

    There are enough democrats (and moderate republicans/independents) in our cities/urban counties here in NC you will be hard pressed to get someone who campaigns as extreme far right to get elected based on statewide votes. Alas they will continue to be elected districtwide however due to extreme gerrymandering.

  • foodstamptrader Sep 23, 3:49 p.m.

    "You don't have a clue do you? Just bash away. Try finding out about how it will affect you. Oh that's right!" - jonstewartrules

    I have already been told how Obamacare will effect me. I have it in black and white on BCBS stationary. I have been describing how it will effect me and others. What are you talking about?

    Many folks in NC who have purchased their own individual policies have gotten similar letters. Why do you post about something you know nothing about? Just to be obnoxious I guess...

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