A few big things happened this past week giving shape to the NC Senate contest which will likely consume much of the political oxygen in the state over the next year.
Late last week a new Super PAC was formed to support a potential run by NC Speaker and North Mecklenburg Representative, Thom Tillis. See Super PAC to tout North Carolina House speaker via "The Center for Public Integrity" for details on the PAC. It's led by establishment political consultant, Michael Luethy.
The PAC formed as Tillis said he was taking the Memorial Day holiday weekend to do some final considering on taking the plunge and officially entering the race. However, the wait is apparently over as the WRAL in Raleigh is reporting Thursday evening that Mr Tillis has officially announced as candidate for US Senate.
Also this week, NC Labor Secretary, Cherie Berry, announced that she would not be running. This takes one of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination out of the contest. Ms. Berry enjoyed widespread name recognition as the "elevator queen" with her picture posted in every elevator in the state. (Everybody rides elevators!)
Other candidates will likely announce soon. However, with Dr. Greg Brannon already in the race - running as the "liberty" candidate, and Reverend Mark Harris of Charlotte considering a run as well, Republican primary voters will likely have at least one choice from each of the three main wings of the Party - Libertarian Leaning Republicans, Socially Conservative Republicans, and Establishment Republicans. Dr. Brannon has been traveling the state gaining support among grassroots activists including Tea Partiers. Reverend Harris helped lead the effort to pass Amendment 1 last year gaining him support among Social Conservatives. Speaker Tillis rounds out the group as the only announced Establishment candidate.
How this all pans out for the Republican Primary next May will be very interesting to watch. While Speaker Tillis should enjoy an immediate advantage in fundraising, he also has problems to address - mostly of his own making.
In recent weeks, there has been a brewing revolt in the Legislature among more conservative House members. Much of that revolt stems from a sense that Speaker Tillis has been managing bills this session for the benefit of a future Senate bid, overly moderating many pieces of legislation when the Republicans have super-majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. That will likely only get worse now that he has officially announced There is also lingering animosity in certain quarters that he influenced various legislative primaries in the past election cycle, supporting more moderate candidates over more conservative choices. Finally, there are specific policies such as his support for toll roads which will impact voters in certain locals around the state.
How these issues all play out will likely have a significant impact on the Republican primary, and none of them will likely go away easily.
One thing is for sure, these events will all make next week's NCGOP Convention in Charlotte much more interesting to watch.