NC Senate Race: Kay Hagan Says 'No Thanks' in 2016

Posted: Jun 24, 2015 10:45 AM

After losing a squeaker of an election in 2014, Kay Hagan has reportedly decided to sit on the sidelines in 2016. Roll Call reports:

Former North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan will not be mounting a challenge to her former GOP colleague, Sen. Richard M. Burr.

Hagan, who was defeated by Thom Tillis in 2014, has been making calls to inform donors she will not be running for the seat that comes up in 2016, two sources familiar with the calls told Roll Call.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) released the following statement:

“Another embarrassing recruitment failure for Senate Democrats with Kay Hagan’s decision not to run for Senate in 2016. In the Senate, Hagan was part of the problem - missing key national security hearings for fundraisers, padding her families pockets with stimulus cash, North Carolina voters sent her a clear message last November and thankfully she finally heard it.” - NRSC Spokesman Matt Connelly

National Journal, meanwhile, reports that Democrats’ “recruitment failure” is real – and no laughing matter:

Kay Hagan wasn't necessarily the best possible candidate Democrats could have run for Senate in North Carolina next year. But the former senator was the most plausible one. And now that she will not run—a decision she revealed this week in phone calls to supporters and former staffers—Democratic leaders turn to the awkward proposition of trying to recruit a handful of alternatives who had already indicated they weren't interested.

Fail to change their minds (and there's real fear among some Democratic officials that they won't be successful) and the party might not be able to field a credible nominee in a major swing-state Senate race in 2016.

That, of course, would be catastrophic. If Hagan ran, however, Democrats would stand a very solid chance of unseating Sen. Burr for three reasons. First, Republicans maintain majority-control of the US Senate, and therefore Team Hagan could tie North Carolinians’ dissatisfaction with Washington to her opponent. It’s always good politics to blame the party in power. Second, it’s a presidential election year, and while North Carolina did not have a Senate race in 2012, Democrats nevertheless won more popular House votes that year than Republicans. This suggests that Democratic turnout is much higher during non-midterm election years. Third, Hagan’s already served in the federal Congress before, so she has instant — and indeed widespread – state name recognition, even if voters felt compelled to boot her out of office in 2014.

All that being said, now that Hagan’s quietly telling donors she’s uninterested in running, Democrats face the daunting task of finding and backing a winning candidate. And of course, that may prove exceedingly difficult if, as National Journal notes, many simply aren’t willing to challenge an incumbent.