Political dominos from race for Watt's seat

Dec. 14, 2013 @ 03:00 PM

The race next year to succeed outgoing U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, D-12th, could have more political implications than just who becomes the new congressional representative serving parts of High Point.
Several of the candidates who want to replace Watt, confirmed by the Senate last week to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, now hold seats in the N.C. General Assembly. They include state Reps. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, of High Point, and Alma Adams, D-Guilford, of Greensboro and state Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg. Indeed, up to five of the potential candidates to succeed Watt in the heavily leaning Democratic district are current state legislators.
The rush of Democratic candidates seeking the congressional seat could have a domino effect, freeing up their state legislative districts as open seats for next year’s election season.
Watt’s confirmation by the full Senate triggers the launch of a special election to fill the 12th Congressional District. The winner of next year’s special election would hold the seat through the November 2014 general election. In next year’s general election, voters then would select a 12th District representative to serve a full two-year term.
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, by statute, will call the special election. The governor doesn’t have a time frame yet for an announcement, said Kim Genardo, communications director for the governor. McCrory will consult with the N.C. State Board of Elections before announcing the special election schedule, Genardo told The High Point Enterprise.
In North Carolina, generally no candidate can run for two offices covered by the same filing period, according to N.C. State Board of Elections statutes. That means a state legislator couldn’t file to run for re-election to his or her state legislative seat next year and file to run for the full 12th District congressional term that will be decided in the November 2014 general election.
Theoretically, a state legislator could file for the special election in the 12th District to fill out Watt’s term through the end of this year and file in the regular candidate period for re-election to the General Assembly. But in that case, the state legislator would have to leave Congress at the beginning of 2015 and be replaced by the candidate who captured the 12th District in the regular November 2014 general election.
Brandon told the Enterprise that “if it’s a choice between (running) Congress and the state House, I will choose Congress.” 
A campaign spokesman for Adams said that she’s definitely running for the 12th District.

pjohnson@hpe.com | 888-3528


What is the 12th District?
The current 12th Congressional District was created more than 20 years ago after redistricting based on the 1990 census. The district stretches from the Charlotte metropolitan area through the central Piedmont to High Point and other parts of the Triad. The district has a high proportion of Democratic voters, and U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, D-12th, has defeated an array of Republican challengers by wide margins in general elections since capturing the seat in 1992.