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The Voice of the Black Community

State & National

Filibuster impacts 12th District
Watt, successors held up by U.S. Senate
 
Published Thursday, November 14, 2013 7:07 am
by Herbert L. White

U.S. Rep. Mel Watt’s uncertain political future is having an impact on North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District.

Seven Democrats have announced campaigns to succeed Watt, who is President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Watt, who has represented the 12th since 1993, is in limbo after Senate Republicans filibustered his confirmation last month. If Watt is confirmed – Republicans haven’t signaled a softening of their stance – a special election would be held to fill his congressional seat.

“I think the congressman should be confirmed and I think he will be,” said N.C. Sen. Malcolm Graham, one of at least five Charlotte Democrats who’ve expressed interest in running for Watt’s seat. “But I’m going to give him the space and time for that to occur. As a candidate, we’re going to continue to get organized and watch current events and wait for the confirmation.”

Watt told Congressional Quarterly/Roll Call last month he could still try for another term in the House if the confirmation fails. 

“Usually I make that decision over the Christmas break before the year in which I file,” said Watt, who raised a mere $10 for a congressional runin the last quarter, according to federal elections data. “And I would do that again this year. I really haven’t addressed that. I’m anticipating a favorable decision by the Senate — or at least hopeful for a favorable decision by the Senate. And if I don’t get a favorable decision, then I will address that in the usual time frame that I do.”

In addition to Graham, Democratic contenders in the safely Democratic 12th are:

• Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools legal counsel George Battle III, whose father is a prominent AME Zion Church bishop.

• N.C. Rep. Beverly Earle of Charlotte.

• N.C. Rep. Rodney Moore of Charlotte.

• Curtis Osborne, a personal injury attorney in Charlotte.

• N.C. Rep. Alma Adams of Greensboro.

• N.C. Rep. Marcus Brandon of Greensboro, the state’s first openly gay black legislator.

Graham led the field in a May survey by Public Policy Polling with support from 31 percent of voters to Adams’ 22 percent. Graham was the only candidate with greater than 50 percent name recognition in the 12th, which draws heavily from Charlotte. 

Voters also had a 49 percent favorability rating of Graham, the highest among potential candidates. 

Until Watt’s confirmation is decided, fundraising and campaigning will be difficult for potential successors to line up, Davidson College political science professor Susan Roberts said. If the Senate votes for cloture, or an end to the filibuster, Watt has at least 56 votes for confirmation. If he resigns the House seat, a special election would be held to determine his successor who would finish his term. The general election is in November 2014. 

“These are people who will be purely in limbo,” she said. “If I was one of those persons considering running for Mel Watt’s seat, I’d be slowly but surely accumulating some money, but I would also be worrying about it in the short term.”

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