U.S. Rep. Foxx: Thanks, but no thanks
RALEIGH — The potential Republican primary field looking to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan next year narrowed further Tuesday when U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx announced she wouldn't seek the GOP nomination.
Foxx, first elected to Congress in 2004, had been considered a potential favorite of economic and social conservatives among party activists. But she said in a statement she already has "the best job in North Carolina" and vowed her utmost support to "our conservative candidate for Senate."
"The encouragement I've received to enter the race to become North Carolina's next United States Senator is truly humbling," Foxx said, but "representing the people of North Carolina's 5th Congressional District while working to encourage job growth, repeal Obamacare, and return decision-making power in education back to our state is where my heart and focus lie."
The decision by Foxx, a former state senator and community college president from Banner Elk, leaves state House Speaker Thom Tillis of suburban Charlotte and Cary physician Greg Brannon as the top names that have entered the race.
State Senate leader Phil Berger is still considering the idea. Southern Baptist leader the Rev. Mark Harris, of Charlotte, is actively weighing a primary bid.
Heather Grant, a former Army nurse from Wilkes County, announced last month she was a GOP candidate. Two other Republican women — U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers and state Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry — declined to get in the race.
Foxx, who turned 70 in June, has been moving up the seniority ladder on Capitol Hill. She was elected last November by her fellow Republican members as secretary of the House GOP Conference for this two-year congressional session.
The 5th District covers all or part of 12 Piedmont and northwest mountain counties.
Appalachian State University political science professor Adam Newmark said Foxx would have taken a risk by running statewide. North Carolina's political climate is also uncertain, he said, as Democrats and their allies have held rallies in Raleigh and other cities opposing Republican policies at the state legislature.
After a tough 2004 primary, Foxx has largely won her general elections by comfortable margins.
"This is clearly a safe district for her. She's well liked in the 5th District," Newmark said. "There's little chance she'll lose if she runs."
Berger, an Eden attorney, previously said he would make a decision by the end of July.