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N.C. Labor Commissioner Considering Run Against Hagan N.C. Labor Commissioner Considering Run Against Hagan

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N.C. Labor Commissioner Considering Run Against Hagan

North Carolina Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry is considering a run against Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in 2014.

"I've been encouraged by quite a few people to look at this opportunity. I owe it to them and myself to at least consider my options. This means talking to my family and key supporters. And then make a decision at some point in the future," Berry said, in a statement to Hotline On Call.

Berry's name had not been among those floated for the seat before an automated-telephone pollster in the state found her leading the other mentioned Republican candidates for the race this week, though the difference in support between Berry and Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., was within the margin of error.

Berry does have a long history in electoral politics in North Carolina, having served eight years in the state House before being elected as labor commissioner in 2001. Still, fundraising could be an issue for Berry, especially in a crowded primary, which appears likely, according to Republican media consultant Marc Rotterman. Rotterman noted that Berry hasn't "been a prolific fundraiser in the past." In fact, she raised just over $175,000 for her reelection in 2012, according to documents filed with the state board of elections, nowhere near the $10-to-$15-million Rotterman estimates a viable Republican will need to come out on top.

But Berry does have one advantage: incredibly high name recognition. Berry's office is responsible for elevator inspections, so her name and photo are posted in every elevator in the state. That has sparked a parody Twitter account, @Elevator Queen, and even lead to this 2012 campaign ad, in which Berry addresses voters from her picture on the side of an elevator.

Other candidates remain more likely to run against Hagan in the November general election, including state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and state House Speaker Thom Tillis, who has been "actively" letting people in the state know that he is interested in the seat, according to Rotterman.

The state's congressional delegation could also produce a nominee. Foxx and Reps. Patrick McHenry and Renee Ellmers have lead Republicans' lists of potential candidates. Ellmers' campaign said that she has yet to make a decision about a Senate run and will continue to pray and think about a decision. Spokesmen for fellow Republican Reps. George Holding and Robert Pittenger said they would run for reelection to the House instead.

Rotterman also mentioned former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Jim Cain as a possibility, citing his ability to fundraise, as he did for George W. Bush's reelection in 2004. Physician Greg Brannon and police detective Terry Embler, both Republicans, are already in the race, but neither has experience running for elected office.

Rotterman echoed the sentiments of many Republicans in the state, saying that beating Hagan in 2014 won't be a walk in the park. "I think the primary for Republicans is fluid, but I wouldn't underestimate Kay Hagan," said Rotterman. "She's played it pretty close to the vest, she's worked very hard for veterans. ... I don't think you can paint her as a lefty.

"If we're able to defeat Hagan, which is if all the stars come together, I think we've got a good chance of taking back the Senate," he added.

-- Jordain Carney contributed to this post.

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