Raleigh, N.C. — The 2014 U.S. Senate race in which Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis toppled Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan was one of the most expensive Senate races nationwide, and a race next year for North Carolina's other U.S. Senate seat could rival it.
Former state Rep. Deborah Ross announced her candidacy early Wednesday as Democrats try to knock off two-term Republican Sen. Richard Burr, and she's already got backing from Washington, D.C., for her campaign.
Ross represented Wake County in the state House for 10 years and said she spent her entire career working on issues important to everyday North Carolinians, such as supporting public schools, making college affordable and providing a living wage and economic security to workers.
"These are things that North Carolina cares a lot about, and Washington has just been playing a lot of games," she said.
She left the General Assembly in 2013 to become the attorney for the transit group GoTriangle, and she said Wednesday that she hadn't planned to return to politics so soon.
"Sen. Hagan decided that she wasn't going to run again, a lot of people encouraged me to get into the race, and I'm going for it," she said.
Ross will face Spring Hope Mayor Chris Rey in the Democratic primary on March 15. Rey said he welcomes her to the race.
"One of us is better than what we have now. I look forward to focusing on how we can defeat Richard Burr," he said.
Burr has a substantial campaign war chest and a lot of outside support, so Democrats face an uphill battle.
"I think the fact that they have not been able to get top-tier candidates to join this race speaks for itself," North Carolina Republican Party executive director Dallas Woodhouse said.
Woodhouse said Ross will have a hard time even getting out of the primary, calling her too liberal to win.
"Nobody can do more for the cause of helping Republicans earn independent and Democrat votes than Ms. Ross," he said. "She’s not just to the far left of the people of North Carolina. She’s to the far left of her own caucus in the General Assembly."
"I'm not into labels," Ross responded. "What I'm into is reflecting North Carolina values and getting something done."