The decision is another setback for the Democrats, who earlier this year failed to entice Attorney General Roy Cooper into the race, Rob Christensen reports. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has turned its attention to former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, an Iraq War veteran from Lexington, who had spent several months exploring a Senate bid, before announcing Monday that he would not be a candidate.
Etheridge, a veteran Congressman, former superintendent of public instruction, former legislator and former Harnett County commissioner, is one of the Tar Heel Democratic Party's proven commodities. Etheridge said he looked at the Senate race strongly this time but in the end, "I just decided not to do it."
UPDATE: National Republican senatorial campaign spokesman Colin Reed said Etheridge's decision leaves a big hole in the Democrats' recruiting class and shows that Democrats "on the ground in North Carolina have a much different view of this race than party officials in Washington."
"I think it is a winnable seat," Etheridge said. "I really do believe that. I think Richard burr has not voted (the right way on) some of the issues on job creation and health care and you go right on down the list."
But Etheridge noted that he was the first North Carolinian to serve on the influential House Ways and Means Committee in more than 50 years and felt as though he had "unfinished business in the House."
He said he would not endorse anyone in the Democratic Senate primary which will be held next May. The announced candidates are Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Chapel Hill attorney Kenneth Lewis. Also looking at the race are Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy and former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker.