Raleigh, N.C. — Second District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers has been booking a lot of time on cable TV news over the past few days, acting as a media spokeswoman for House Republicans' opposition to the Affordable Care Act. But the second-term congresswoman's rising profile isn't dissuading potential challengers.
One of them is former North Carolina Commerce secretary Keith Crisco, a Democrat, who said Tuesday that he's weighing a 2014 bid for Ellmers' seat.
"It's a consideration," Crisco said in a phone interview with WRAL News. "It's early, and we've got a lot of work to do."
"Some mighty nice people have encouraged me," he added, declining to name any of them.
Crisco, a former Asheboro textile executive, was Commerce secretary under former Gov. Bev Perdue.
"My style was to work across the aisle," he said, "and I've been supported by Republicans, Democrats and independents."
Asked why he might choose to challenge Ellmers now, Crisco alluded to the current stalemate in Congress.
"I think people are ready for someone who's willing to talk and find solutions – someone more centrist," he said. "I think that's a better working approach."
He says he expects to make a decision within the next month.
Meanwhile, a Durham Democrat has filed his paperwork for his party's nomination to challenge Ellmers next November.
Attorney Houston Barnes announced his candidacy for the seat Tuesday via press release.
“We need a non-wavering voice in Washington that understands the needs within our communities and businesses,” Barnes said. "I’m proud of my record as an entrepreneur who works every day helping to develop and grow small businesses in our community, and in Congress, I will continue to fight for the people of North Carolina.”
Barnes, 31, has not held elected office before. He is married to Brice Barnes, a Democratic fundraiser and strategist.
A campaign spokeswoman says Barnes currently lives outside the 2nd district in southern Durham, but owns property in the district and plans to move his family soon.
Ellmers could yet face a Republican primary challenge for her seat as well.
Chatham County Republican Party Chair Jim Duncan had formed an exploratory committee, but dropped his primary bid last week. However, conservative Cary talk-show host Frank Roche is still considering a challenge from the right.
Roche didn't immediately respond to inquiries about his decision.