Senate District 15: Jim Fulghum (R) vs. Tom Bradshaw (D)

Senate District 15 is located in northwestern Wake County. It’s a mix of suburban Raleigh (including wealthy ITB precincts), part of Wake Forest, and some of the few rural areas remaining in the county. Of the State Senate districts in Wake County, the 15th is the most Republican.

This year, though, Democrats might have a shot at taking the seat. That’s because popular incumbent Neal Hunt, who has occupied this seat for almost a decade, is retiring, making this an open seat race. If there’s a backlash against the General Assembly this year, then places like Wake County will be ground zero for it.

After announcing his retirement, Hunt endorsed State Representative Jim Fulghum, whose 49th House district is contained within the 15th. Fulghum is a freshman legislator and doesn’t have the same level of name recognition as he might if he had served longer. In today’s environment, that’s both a good and a bad thing.

Dr. Jim Fulghum, Republican candidate

Dr. Jim Fulghum, Republican candidate

A 69-year-old, retired neurosurgeon, Fulghum is actually the youthful candidate in this race. But Democrats have put up a decent candidate too: Former (Jim) Hunt administration official Tom Bradshaw, who was also mayor of Raleigh forty years ago. Raleigh’s population has grown exponentially since then, so don’t expect Bradshaw to coast to victory based on fond memories of his mayoral tenure back in the 1970’s. But given Bradshaw’s ties to business and political leaders, Democrats won’t hurt for fundraising here, and they could give Fulghum a run for his money.

Tom Bradshaw, Democratic candidate

Tom Bradshaw, Democratic candidate

District 15 is fiscally conservative, overwhelmingly White, Republican, but there are enough moderates here to make Democrats competitive if everything goes right for them. And, perhaps this year, dynamics at the state level will overcome the district’s recent history. If Bradshaw runs as a Jim Hunt Democrat who supports public education and the university system, and should Fulghum be tied to the legislature, then Democrats might have a shot here.

The problem for them is that mass discontent with the legislature seems more like wishful thinking on the part of liberals than anything based in reality. While the legislature’s approval numbers are pretty bad, legislative bodies are never popular in this day and age, and we don’t know how strongly people disapprove of NC Republicans. Mild discontent and outrage are two very different things, but they’ll both tally under the ‘disapprove’ category.

If voters are truly outraged with the Republican legislature, then Fulghum – who occupies an interesting position, running for State Senate as a member of the State House – will be in trouble. But voters don’t seem outraged; in fact, Republicans lead the generic legislative ballot by 2 points. Things could change over the next couple months, but right now the data supports a continuation of the status quo in Raleigh. At this point, a rating of Tilts Republican seems prudent. But Fulghum should have the advantage, even though voters here probably know more about the goings-on in the legislature than most others. For an illustration of how Republican this district is, consider the 2008 Senate race, where Hagan only won here by one-tenth of a percentage point. For Bradshaw to win here, things would probably have to unfold almost as well for him as it did for Hagan back in 2008.

In the first quarter, Rep. Fulghum raised over $66,000. Mr. Bradshaw raised over $35,000 (including a substantial $30,000 loan).

Counties in district: Wake (part)

District Rating: Tilts Republican

2012 Result
55.8% Hunt
44.2% Hutchinson

Voter Registration
36.3% Republican
33.6% Democrat
29.8% Unaffiliated

83.1% White
9.0% Black
8.0% Other

Results in Other Elections
2012 President
52.8% Romney
46.0% Obama

2012 Governor
58.3% McCrory
39.3% Dalton

2010 Senate
57.5% Burr
40.1% Marshall

2008 Senate
48.7% Hagan
48.6% Dole

Social Media Support
Rep. Jim Fulghum – 458
Former Mayor Tom Bradshaw – 401

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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