RALEIGH, N.C. — The race to replace John Edwards in the U.S. Senate is quietly building momentum. Two candidates have surfaced as front-runners, but they are saving the heavy hitting for the fall.
Democratic candidate Erskine Bowles and Republican candidate Richard Burr both want the Senate seat that John Edwards is leaving behind. They are pounding the political pavement at gatherings like Friday's Tobacco Growers meeting.
"I'm out there literally from 7 o'clock in the morning until around 11 o'clock at night," Bowles said.
"The objective is on Election Day to be known by 100 percent of the people in North Carolina. I think it would be a mistake to do that in July," Burr said.
A legal battle over district maps could delay the North Carolina primary, but that is not expected to affect the Senate race because both candidates are not really fighting members of their own party.
"In this case, both parties seemed to arrange themselves, so that they are elevating only one candidate," said Andy Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University.
Taylor said Bowles has more name recognition as a former staffer of then-President Bill Clinton and a Senate candidate, but that may not equal an advantage.
"The race is likely to be close at a time when the U.S. Senate is very, very evenly divided between two major parties," he said.
Former state House Speaker Dan Blue said he is still considering a run for the seat as a Democratic Party candidate.