New Bern attorney Whit Whitley announced Monday he's seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, next fall.
Speciale, a freshman legislator, represents House District 3, made up of Beaufort, Craven, and Pamlico Counties. He soundly defeated Democrat Robert Cayton in 2012.
Speciale's predecessor was Norm Sanderson, who defeated incumbent Democrat Alice Graham Underhill in 2010 by a wide margin. Sanderson moved to the Senate in 2012 after redistricting.
According to his announcement release, Whitley is managing partner of the Whitley Law Firm, and also owns a small retail business in New Bern with his wife, Kelly.
Whitley says he's a "mainstream, middle-of-the-road" candidate who backs higher funding for public education in NC from pre-K to universities.
"Our government system is frozen because of the hyper-partisanship we are seeing in our politics today," Whitley said in his release. "I’m running because I believe we need a State Representative who will be a consensus builder, who will listen as much as he talks, and will work to reach across the aisle to do what’s right to advance the interests of House District 3 and our state."
Speciale, a retired Marine veteran, has made headlines several times this year for calling the president of the state NAACP "racist," for a floor speech about killing dogs with a baseball bat, and for authoring a resolution opposing any federal restriction on gun rights in North Carolina. He didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.