Democrat Deb McManus has resigned from the NC House following her arrest on embezzlement charges. A committee of Democrats will elect McManus’s successor. The vacancy is in HD-54, which comprises Chatham County and the city of Sanford, in Lee County. It was drawn to be a Democratic district.

Kathie Russell, a Raleigh attorney, has announced that she intends to seek the appointment to the vacant seat. Russell served on the Chatham County School Board from 2006 to 2010, and as a lawyer she worked closely with former governor and U.S. Senator Terry Sanford.

Democrats will elect Russell or someone else, and Governor McCrory will officially appoint that person to the vacant seat. While HD-54 strongly favors Democrats, it is possibly competitive in a Republican-favorable environment. Last year, Obama won it with only 53%. Then there is the matter of its scandal-plagued former officeholder. In general, Chatham County Democrats have not had great press lately. This is a potentially winnable race for Republicans, but they will have to nominate a strong candidate and hope for a favorable national tide. Even then, the odds are against them. It is likely that voters here will forget about McManus, if they haven’t already, and this will be a safe seat for whichever Democrat is appointed.

John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: johncwynne@gmail.com.

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