Replacements for Watt begin lining up

Posted May 1, 2013

12th District Congressman Mel Watt

— Democratic lawmakers in the state House and Senate are lining up for a chance to replace 12th District Congressman Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat who president Obama nominated Wednesday as head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. 

Watt's district snakes from Charlotte up Interstate 85 toward Greensboro. It is a Democratic-leaning district drawn to be friendly to minority voters and candidates. Watt is the only person to hold the seat since it was created following the 1990 U.S. Census.

Although Watt has faced Republican challengers over the years, he has easily turned them aside both due to the power of incumbency and how his district was drawn. His most serious political challenge may have been in 1992, when Democrats from the Greensboro and Charlotte ends of the district battled for control of the seat.

It appears another such battle may be shaping up. 

"If it becomes available, I'll be seeking that position," Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, said Wednesday. "That's my thinking."

Adams has served for more than 10 terms in the state House. 

State Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg, told The Charlotte Observer that he is "definitely running" if Watt were to be confirmed. 

Rep. Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg, is also said to be considering a bid for the seat. However, at least one potential candidate says he's backing Adams.

"I have an interest in making sure Rep. Adams captures that seat. I think she's the best qualified," said Earl Jones, a former state lawmaker from Greensboro who ran in the 1992 primary against Watt. 

One potential dynamic that may develop in the race is a Greensboro-versus-Charlotte push and pull. More than two hours of driving time separate the two ends of the district. 

"Mel has been a great representative, but he has (given preference to), and rightly so, Charlotte," Jones said. He said it would be better for Greensboro if someone from the Gate City took Watt's place. "It's always better for an area to have that representative."


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