Former Wake County lawmaker Deborah Ross launches U.S. Senate campaign

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Former state legislator Deborah Ross joined the race Wednesday to try to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr next year, saying she's getting in because too many North Carolina residents feel they can't meet their potential and "all want a government that puts people first."

Ross, a Raleigh attorney who served in the state House for 10 years, joins Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey as a candidate for the Democratic nomination in March.

Releasing a short video, the 52-year-old Ross said people are looking for economic security and affordable quality health care. Senior adults want to know Social Security and Medicare are protected and students don't want to be crushed by college debt, she added.

"I don't have every answer, and I won't promise to make all problems immediately disappear," she says in the introductory video, but "like every other challenge I've faced, I won't back down just because it's hard."

The video didn't mention Burr, who is seeking his third term in the Senate and has been elevated to intelligence committee chairman since the Republicans retook the chamber's majority. A corresponding Ross news release points out that Burr has been in Washington for more than two decades. He was elected to the U.S. House in 1994.

"Many of the politicians in Washington have made a mess," Ross said in the release. "They play political games, while families face real challenges."

Ross didn't mention in the video and release her most recent work as general counsel for the Triangle-area transit authority and as a General Assembly lobbyist for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in the late 1990s and early 2000s. She was considered one of the state House's most liberal members but also got bipartisan legislation passed, including clean-government measures when Democrats controlled the General Assembly.

"I've fought for equal opportunity, to get government out of people's personal lives and I've held those in positions of public trust accountable with sweeping ethics reforms," Ross said in the release.

Ross' formal entry into the race - she had made her interest public a few months ago - means there will be a Democratic Senate primary March 15. Burr earned a double-digit percentage general election victory in 2010, but national Democrats contend Burr is vulnerable in a presidential election year in what's been a battleground state since 2008.

Democrats had a hard time recruiting high-profile candidates. Former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who lost to Republican Thom Tillis in 2014, passed on another campaign in June.

"The Democrats' recruitment failure has left them desperate in North Carolina," said Alleigh Marre, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Deborah Ross' candidacy underscores that desperation."

Following Ross' late night campaign announcement, NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse released a statement.

"Not long after her idol Hillary Clinton wrapped up the Democrat debate and said she was proud to call half the country her enemy, Deborah Ross announced her campaign for U.S. Senate under the cover of darkness when she thought no one would notice," Woodhouse said. "I can't think of a better candidate to help Republicans reach out to Independent and Democrat voters than Deborah Ross, who has one of the most far-left voting records in the General Assembly and is far to the left of even her own Party."

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