Candidates for the U.S. Senate often come from the other side of Capitol Hill. Fully half of the senators in the 115th Congress had experience in the House.

It makes sense: A House race is an introduction to the big leagues of politics, with big donors, big PACs and heady national responsibilities.

Here in North Carolina, that hasn’t always been a prerequisite. Only U.S. Sen. Richard Burr — who served five terms in the House — has had House experience among senators since Jim Broyhill in the mid-1980s.

Look for that to change soon. North Carolina has U.S. Senate races in 2020 and 2022, and Burr is retiring — so there are plenty of openings. Expect at least one or two of the current House delegation to explore a bid.

So who among North Carolina’s current congressional delegation is most likely to run for U.S. Senate? We’ve ranked the current representatives by their likelihood to run and win.

1) Patrick McHenry – 10th District

The Hickory Republican has quietly become one of the most powerful figures in North Carolina. He already has a full career’s worth of experience at just 43 years old, and real credibility in financial services and small business legislation. McHenry has the tech chops to run a modern campaign and the suburban appeal to be popular across North Carolina.

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry. Photo via Facebook.

2) David Rouzer – 7th District

The 46-year-old Wilmington Republican has already gotten the taste for the U.S. Senate — he started his political career as a legislative aide and policy adviser for U.S. Sens. Jesse Helms and Elizabeth Dole.

He has deep familiarity with agriculture and the military, and experience in tight elections from the beginning of his U.S. House career.

U.S. Rep. David Rouzer

3) Richard Hudson – 8th District

The Charlotte-area Republican is deeply connected with North Carolina’s political establishment, having worked for Virginia Foxx, Robin Hayes, Pat McCrory and the state Republican Party. This would help him raise money in a hurry. Hudson, too, has urban-suburban-rural crossover appeal.

Hudson is considered a more moderate Republican, which could help in a statewide campaign. But he also has conservative cred with his stances on Second Amendment issues.

U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson

4) Mark Walker – 6th District

Though he was only first elected in 2014, Walker is a rising star among the conservative wing of the Republican Party and has been tapped to head the Republican Study Committee.

Walker has perhaps the most robust web and social media presence out of the entire delegation, which would help him raise his profile in a hurry.

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker

5) Mark Meadows – 11th District

Meadows has the highest national profile among North Carolina’s delegation and would likely be able to raise the most money. But he has a sweet gig as the leader of the Freedom Caucus, and could be a tougher sell in a statewide campaign. Would he give up his safe seat for a Senate run?

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows

6) Ted Budd – 13th District

Budd is young, conservative and just held off a well-funded opponent in Kathy Manning. But he’s just in his second term and likely hasn’t quite built the profile for a Senate run. However, his brand is as an outsider, so don’t count him out.

U.S. Rep. Ted Budd

7) George Holding – 2nd District

The 50-year-old Republican has won in Wake County and its suburbs, a position on the influential House Ways and Means Committee and is a political survivor. He held off a strong challenger in Linda Coleman and made it through redistricting. However, he has one of the lowest statewide profiles.

8) G. K. Butterfield – 1st District

The Wilson Democrat represents a huge district and a national profile — he was chair of the Congressional Black Caucus from 2015-17. But at age 71 might not be willing to run a statewide campaign.

The oldest person to be elected to the Senate for the first time in a traditional race was 70 years old.

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield

9) Alma Adams – 12th District

The Charlotte Democrat has held off fierce primary challenges and survived redistricting. She’s extremely popular in a large urban area. At age 72, she might not be willing to run statewide for Senate.

U.S. Rep. Alma Adams

10) Virginia Foxx – 5th District

The Republican took over Burr’s seat when he ran for Senate, and Foxx has more than a decade of experience and influential committee assignments. But again, at age 75, she might not be willing to make the 8-year commitment to a Senate run.

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx

11) David Price – 4th District

The Triangle Democrat is a decades-long fixture of the House. At age 78, don’t count on him running.

U.S. Rep. David Price

12) Walter Jones – 3rd District

The eastern N.C. Republican is in poor health and has already announced he’s retiring.

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones

North Carolina has 13 districts, but only 12 people are on this list. The 9th District remains unseated. Robert Pittenger is not likely to run for Senate, and Mark Harris would not get elected. Dan McCready could if he ultimately wins in a special election.


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