Retirements put control of state Senate into play
Posted February 5, 2010 5:52 p.m. EST
Updated February 6, 2010 10:40 a.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Democrats have controlled the state Senate for more than a century, but a growing number of Democratic senators choosing not to run for re-election next fall could jeopardize that streak.
Seven Democratic senators have stepped down since September or said they don't plan to seek another term in office. They include former Majority Leader Tony Rand; Sen. David Hoyle, a top tax writer; and Sen. R.C. Soles, the longest-serving member of the General Assembly.
Democrats hold a 30-20 margin in the Senate, and Republicans hope a national wave of voter frustration will shift the balance of power in November.
"We're optimistic, but we know we're going to have a spending disadvantage," said Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake.
Hunt said he sees 10 truly competitive Senate seats, and Republicans need to pick up only six to take control.
"It really is good to have some change," he said.
Political analyst John Davis said recent criticism of President Barack Obama and the corruption investigation surrounding former Gov. Mike Easley only add to the Democrats' woes.
"Democrats have never had this many seats to protect," Davis said. "It's more interesting than ever before."
Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight said the Democratic turnover in the Senate isn't that unexpected since four of the seven Democrats retiring are older than 70.
"I feel no different today than I have in previous campaigns," said Basnight, D-Dare, noting that he's raising campaign money and recruiting candidates to run for the open seats.
"I do believe we will be in the majority," he said.
"If anybody can pull it off again, it's Marc Basnight," Davis said. "All (Republicans) have is an opportunity. Without money, they're going to lose again."