Former State Rep. Deborah Ross has resigned from her job as counsel at the Triangle Transit Authority in order to commit full-time to “considering” a run against U.S. Senator Richard Burr. That’s a fairly significant step … and it’s not that difficult to think it’s an indication that she’s a bit farther along in the decision process than she’s letting on. My not-quite-going-out-on-a-limb guess: Ross is as good as in.

If (when) Ross enters, she’d immediately start out as the frontrunner in a Democratic primary. While mayor of Spring Lake Chris Rey is a compelling candidate, his newness on the scene would make it difficult for him to compete with Ross on the fundraising front. Rey would probably be able to count on the support of the African American community, but Ross would get support from women’s groups, which has greater sway with a larger number of Democratic voters. If State Senator Joel Ford enters, he and Rey would be going after the same voters, complicating matters further.

The big concern about Ross, and one you’ll probably hear voiced by her primary foes, is that she’s just too left-wing to win statewide. A Ross nomination would be historic; typically Democrats running for U.S. Senate here tend to be very much of the center-left variety. A Ross/Burr contest would be one between a committed liberal and a center-right incumbent with a long record of service.

No matter who the Democrats nominate, they’ll be at a disadvantage against Burr. But a more moderate candidate would be better-positioned to take advantage of a shift in the political environment which could make Burr vulnerable. The fact of the matter is, there’s more to the state than the Research Triangle and Asheville. Color me skeptical that Ross will find enough appeal outside the major urban centers in order to eke out a victory next November.

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