Congressman Mel Watt hasn’t even been nominated to for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, but the prospect of this happening is already stirring up excitement among politicians in the 12th congressional district. The 12th snakes its way from Charlotte all the way up to Winston-Salem and Greensboro, picking up cities like Salisbury and Lexington along the way.
If there was a vacancy in the 12th, who would want the seat? “Half of Charlotte and half of Greensboro,” answers Senator Gladys Robinson, a Democrat from Guilford County. There are also whisperings that some politicians from Winston-Salem might be interested, too.
The strongest contender among Democrats would be Anthony Foxx, Mayor of Charlotte. This has already been discussed at length on this blog. If Foxx declines to run, the primary would be more of a free-for-all, as none of the other contenders would be nearly as strong as Foxx. Other potential candidates include Senator Malcolm Graham of Charlotte, Charlotte City Council member David Howard, former Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston, and Representative Marcus Brandon.
Rep. Brandon (D-Greensboro) would be an intriguing candidate, and has already expressed interest in running. Despite representing an overwhelmingly Democratic district, Brandon has a reputation as a moderate and is on good terms with many Republican legislators. He has been particularly vocal on the subject of school choice. In 2010 he managed to defeat an entrenched Democratic incumbent and successfully defended his seat in a rematch in 2012. Brandon was most recently in the news for speaking out against voter ID laws.
Brandon, however, is probably most known for being the only openly gay member of the General Assembly, and if elected to Congress he will be the first openly gay representative from North Carolina.
Most likely, however, Democrats will be waiting for Foxx’s decision, as he would be the strongest candidate by far. It should also be noted here that any candidate from Charlotte would be favored, as Mecklenburg County constitutes over a majority of the district. Using the same metric, any candidate from Forsyth would have work to do – and it probably goes without saying that any white candidate would be a heavy underdog.
Once again it should be said that Watt’s nomination isn’t a sure thing. Still, Watt’s age and his prior ambivalence about running again makes it likely that we’ll see a new 12th District representative sooner rather than later.