DOBBINS HEIGHTS — A two-time congressional candidate might throw his hat into the ring again if federal judges give North Carolina’s redrawn U.S. House districts the green light.
Dobbins Heights Mayor Antonio Blue said he’s considering a run in the 9th Congressional District Democratic primary. The two-time 8th District candidate said supporters urged him to enter the race after state lawmakers released new district boundaries on Feb. 17.
The maps move parts of Scotland Anson, Richmond, and Robeson counties from the 8th to the 9th district, which also includes Union County, southeastern Mecklenburg, southern Cumberland and western Bladen counties.
“The new district would lean more in favor of Democrats,” Blue said. “With my name having been on the ballot before, I’ve laid the groundwork and the foundation to run in a congressional race — and potentially win.”
Blue stepped down as chairman of the 8th District Democratic Party to run as a certified write-in candidate against Rep. Larry Kissel in 2012, receiving 3,990 votes in the May primary that year. In 2014, Blue faced Rep. Richard Hudson, R-Concord, as the district’s Democratic nominee.
“I’ve been there before,” Blue said. “I did it two years ago. I know what it takes. I know it’s time-consuming.”
Hudson won re-election by a comfortable 30-point margin, but Blue said his 65,854 votes (35.14 percent of all ballots cast) were an impressive feat considering he raised only $16,500 and ran a grassroots campaign against a heavily favored incumbent.
“If I ran against a guy who had a $1.2 million war chest with a little over $16,000 and did that well, what could I do if I had $100,000?” Blue said. “What could I do if I had $150,000?”
Blue, who retired after 24 years in the U.S. Army, said his military experience would help him connect with voters in Cumberland County, the home of Fort Bragg.
His service, he said, gives him a more informed view on defense, combat and military issues that come before Congress.
“A lot of the people who do a lot of the tough talking have never served their country,” he said. “When you talk about deploying a soldier to a foreign land to put his or her life on the line, it needs to be a last resort. The ultimate price for a soldier is when he lays down his life for his country and the citizens he or she represents. You’ve got to ask yourself a question: Would I send my son or daughter? If the answer’s not yes, that person does not need to be making that decision.”
Blue has served as mayor of Dobbins Heights for more than seven years and has worked to build the town’s new community center, repave the basketball and tennis courts and increase public services on a shoestring budget.
“I’ve done a fantastic job as mayor of a small town with limited resources,” he said. “The citizens of Dobbins Heights tell me I’ve done a great job. They elected me three times. They have elected me convincingly — and I’ve always had opposition.”
If voters in the new 9th District send him to Washington, Blue said he would remain an advocate for his hometown and home county.
“They would know that if they needed to call me for advice, my door would always be open,” he said. “At the end of the day, I would still be a citizen of Dobbins Heights and of Richmond County.”
Blue would face a June 7 congressional primary against Charlotte businessman Christian Cano. Former Democratic state senator and Rockingham mayor Gene McLaurin is also considering a run for Congress in the 9th District.
The Democratic nominee will advance to a general election race against the Republican primary winner. Pittenger faces a challenge from Union County businessman Todd Johnson.
Candidate filing for North Carolina congressional races opened Wednesday, though the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina has not yet approved the redrawn maps. Barring revisions that require a new filing period, the last day to register will be March 25.
“I’m weighing my options and waiting to see what the judges’ ruling may be,” Blue said from Dobbins Heights Town Hall on Wednesday. “I’ll make a decision after that.”
Reach Corey Friedman at 910-817-2670 and follow him on Twitter @corey_friedman.