State Sen. Pete Brunstetter announced Thursday he will not seek the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Kay Hagan.
The Winston-Salem Republican's announcement comes days after Senate leader Phil Berger decided against a bid. It could mean the Republican field is set but some GOP operatives still see room for a vibrant challenge from the party's right wing.
In a statement, Brunstetter did not go into detail about his reasoning, saying the "task must fall to someone else."
"The Republican nominee will have my full support in the general election," he said in a statement. "Meanwhile, I will remain focused on the many critical issues facing the state of North Carolina as I continue my work in the NC Senate."
Brunstetter, a chief state budget writer, said he gave the opportunity -- with encouragement from Berger -- serious thought. "The prospect of continuing that service in the United States Senate and having the opportunity to help shape federal policy is an enticing one for me and my family," he said. "I’m honored that so many friends and colleagues reached out to voice their support of my potential candidacy."
UPDATE: "For me it was more of a personal decision, than a political decision,''
Brunstetter said in an interview. "Although it is fairly daunting to put together something as significant as a U.S. Senate run this late in the game, it's more personal than anything else. These state-wide races, you have to be willing to give your entire self to it. People talk about the fire in the belly and total commitment. You have to look at the particular time and place. I was not at this particular time to make that time and commitment.''
Brunstetter said he did not look at the fact that both he and House Speaker Thom Tillis have close ties to the business community was not a factor in his decision.
"I thought it was politically doable,'' Brunstetter said.
He said he will likely endorse later in the race.
He also thinks that Hagan is vulnerable.
"North Carolinians historically are pretty quick to pull the trigger on an incumbent senator,'' Brunstetter said. "My analysis is once you got to the general election, it is anybody's ball game.''
The most prominent candidate in the race is House Speaker Thom Tillis. Rev. Mark Harris, a Charlotte pastor, is expected to formally enter next week in a statewide tour Oct. 2. Two other lesser known candidates -- Greg Brannon of Cary and Heather Grant of Wilkesboro -- are also running.