@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Charlotte minister to enter GOP Senate race

Posted September 12, 2013

— Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte told a group of supporters Thursday he will enter the Republican primary to challenge U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in 2014.

Harris made the announcement to a group of about 200 supporters meeting in Clemmons. His political adviser Tom Perdue said the crowd was much larger than expected. He said Harris will officially declare his candidacy Oct. 2.  

Harris is senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Charlotte. He has not held public office before but was one of the founding members and most vocal supporters of Vote for Marriage NC, the campaign supporting the state's constitutional ban on same-sex unions. 

His campaign will be co-chaired by former congressman and state GOP chairman Robin Hayes and Mary Frances Forrester, widow of late state Sen. Jim Forrester, R-Gaston, another leading voice against same-sex unions in her own right.

"There are a lot of people in North Carolina that are looking for something – someone – different," Perdue said.

Harris will face current House Speaker Thom Tillis and physician Greg Brannon of Cary, both of whom have already declared their candidacy for the GOP Senate primary. The winner will challenge incumbent Democrat Hagan in November 2014.

"There’s a definite opening for a true conservative – not a Kay Hagan light, a true conservative," Perdue said. "He won’t be someone who’s got to spend campaign money to market himself as something he’s not or convince people he didn’t mean something he said four years ago. Mark is Mark."

Perdue said Harris has held 117 meetings around the state on a listening tour since his supporters began a "Draft Mark Harris for U.S. Senate" campaign in May. He said the campaign's mailing list is now more than 22,000 and growing quickly.

"He’s been told by enough people that they would like to vote for somebody for one time that does not surprise them after they’re elected,” Perdue said. "He is a social and a fiscal conservative, and he certainly won’t surprise anybody. He believes there is a pathway for someone like him to win."

Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, the Republican leader of the state Senate, is another potential candidate for the primary. He's expected to announce his decision on the race next week.

"I’ve always said about primaries, 'The more, the merrier,'" Perdue said. 

Meanwhile, Brannon has already won support from Tea Party Republicans and conservative pundit Erick Erickson, who told a RedState gathering last month, "I would rather vote for the pile of brown goo on the side of the road in New Orleans than vote for [Tillis] as a Republican. He's terrible."

16 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • jackjones2nc Sep 14, 10:55 p.m.

    Rev Mark Harris has a right to run for office. The state has an obligation to fully investigate his financing.

  • lwe1967 Sep 14, 5:24 p.m.

    If he is responsible for the unconstitutionality of the NC Marriage Amendment, he is going to face stiff opposition. This does not bode well in the Tar Heel State for a minister doing this.

  • teleman60 Sep 13, 7:12 p.m.

    This man is responsible for the soon to be struck down Unconstitutional NC marriage amendment. Wonderful...

    It's interesting that he will be injecting even more religion into the politics of a state just begging for someone to turn down the fundamentalist ardor.

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Sep 13, 5:30 p.m.

    "WRAL reports:'Perdue said Harris has held 117 meetings around the state on a listening tour since his supporters began a "Draft Mark Harris for U.S. Senate" campaign in May. He said the campaign's mailing list is now more than 22,000 and growing quickly."

    Interesting. So his church enjoys 501c3 tax exempt status in exchange for his legal requirement to stay out of politics...

  • timexliving Sep 13, 5:04 p.m.

    "Baptists are some of the most judgmental people in the US and a fair number of them are hypocrites...."

    Funnnneeee! Your whole comment is a rant against Baptists and YOU'RE calling them judgmental?!?

  • NC_interest Sep 13, 5:04 p.m.

    Not sure why he is running, the Social and Fiscal Conservative's are pretty much already handled by Brannon, and possibly Tillis. Either way, his entry would pretty much Guarantee a Hagan win, as he quite possibly would win the primary.

  • jerryroll Sep 13, 4:21 p.m.

    Mark Harris - pastor of First Baptist Church - Charlotte...that should disqualify him right there....more of the same blah, blah blah on social issues and a right leaning agenda.

    Baptists are some of the most judgmental people in the US and a fair number of them are hypocrites....

    Totally WRONG for North Carolina! Keep religion out of politics.

  • miseem Sep 13, 4:02 p.m.

    Brannon has already won support from Tea Party Republicans and conservative pundit Erick Erickson, who told a RedState gathering last month, "I would rather vote for the pile of brown goo on the side of the road in New Orleans than vote for [Tillis] as a Republican. He's terrible.".

    Anyone see a problem here? Tillis is too far left? I hope he has fun cleaning off his shoes, though. However, if enough of the right feel that way, Hagan should have a cakewalk.

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Sep 13, 3:55 p.m.

    "There are a lot of people in North Carolina that are looking for something – someone – different," Perdue said.

    Well, there's one thing I agree with...we're looking for something different, alright...different than a polarizing, gay-bashing, creationist with zero experience in the US Senate.

  • Wirklich Sep 13, 3:54 p.m.

    WRAL reports:'Perdue said Harris has held 117 meetings around the state on a listening tour since his supporters began a "Draft Mark Harris for U.S. Senate" campaign in May. He said the campaign's mailing list is now more than 22,000 and growing quickly.'

    Wonder what his congregation thinks about their politicking "pastor?" What about those Associate Pastors that have to take up his slack "caring for the flock" while he is out campaigning? Or are they going along on the same "ego trip?"

    He certainly has a right to run for office. If nothing else, it will make the process more interesting. As was quoted in the article: "the more, the merrier!"

More...