by: Jim Bradley Updated:
MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C.,None - Former state Sen. Robert Pittenger told Eyewitness News he's putting a campaign team together to run for Sue Myrick's 9th District seat in Congress. When he makes his announcement later this week, Pittenger will become the 10th Republican battling for the nomination in the May primary.
Sue Myrick's decision to leave Congress has created a logjam of possible Republican replacements. Ten names -- some well-known, others not -- will fight for the same votes.
And unless one of them can get 40 percent of them, the May primary could continue in the form of a runoff in July.
Mecklenburg County Republican Party Chairman Gideon Moore is already urging candidates to avoid negative campaigning.
“The danger if there is that contentious primary is the fact that we won't be as united as we need to be,” Moore said.
That could play in to the hands of Jennifer Roberts, so far the only Democrat in the race.
“If they have a bruising primary -- if they have to go to a runoff, that's more money, that's more time,” Roberts said. “It's possible that could help my campaign.”
But Republicans still have a big advantage that neither time nor divisiveness can erase. The newly drawn 9th District is now 40 percent Republican and only 31 percent Democratic.
Political expert Michael Bitzer said that reality will be tough for Roberts.
“She would have to pull off some Republicans to her side,” Bitzer said. “That's going to be the toughest battle that she's got to try and overcome.”