State News

Miller Votes Against Senate Run in '08

Posted June 25, 2007 2:25 p.m. EDT
Updated June 25, 2007 7:40 p.m. EDT

— Citing family considerations, 13th District Congressman Brad Miller said Monday he wouldn't be the Democratic candidate to challenge incumbent GOP Sen. Elizabeth Dole in 2008.

"Obviously, a big part of me wanted to run for the Senate ... but I like what I'm doing in the House right now," Miller said.

The 54-year-old attorney had set a July 1 deadline to decide whether to take on Dole, a famous name in American politics who won the seat in 2002. Earlier this month, he met with Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

But after wrestling with the decision for weeks, he decided to remain in the House, where he represents a comfortably Democratic district that stretches from Raleigh to Greensboro. Miller beat GOP challenger Vernon Robinson last year by a nearly a two-to-one margin.

"I think it's one I could have won, but it would have turned my life upside down for a year and a half," he said.

Miller said the 2008 Senate campaign would take tens of millions to win -- GOP Sen. Richard Burr and Democrat Erskine Bowles spent a combined $26 million in 2004 -- and he didn't want to put his family through a grueling campaign and extensive fundraising.

He joins a growing list of Democrats backing out of campaign against Dole. Gov. Mike Easley and Attorney General Roy Cooper already have said they aren't interested in running for the Senate next year.

Dole, 70, has a lengthy background in national politics, having served in the cabinets of former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. She also briefly ran for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, four years after her husband, Bob Dole, earned the nomination.

Still, Miller said he thinks she can be beat.

"She is absolutely vulnerable," he said. "I'm not North Carolina's only Democrat. We've got lots of very smart, talented, energetic people."

The longer Dole keeps Democrats at bay, the more likely candidates will surface with little chance of victory, North Carolina State University political science professor Andy Taylor said. Such candidates would take her on because their political careers might be helped instead of crushed by a loss, he said.

"They may not actually win the race, but their opportunity costs of what they're giving up are not so great that it's worth running," Taylor said.

State Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-Guilford, are mentioned among possible candidates.

"The hurdle for this particular person to cross, whoever the candidate is, is getting higher and higher. Time is running out," Taylor said.