On paper at least, North Carolina’s 13th District seat is the most competitive in the state for Democrats next year. And now, the national party has a candidate they’re excited about in Kathy Manning, who announced her campaign Wednesday.
Manning, a philanthropist and former immigration lawyer, is hoping to take on freshman Republican Ted Budd, a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
President Donald Trump carried this district by 9 points — his narrowest margin of victory of all the North Carolina districts that voted for him last fall. (He carried the 2nd District by only a few tenths of a percentage more.)
Manning had considered running for the Democratic nomination for Senate in 2016, but was still thinking about it when former state Rep. Deborah Ross got in the race. Ross ended up losing to GOP incumbent Richard M. Burr by 6 points.
Now that she’s running for the 13th District, Manning sounds like a typical congressional candidate, irrespective of party, when she said she was driven to run for Congress because of the “chaos and dysfunction” in Washington.
“I’ve just been astonished that Congress has spent so much time worrying about taking away health care,” she said. They should be focused on how expensive health care is, she added.
She criticized Budd for his vote for the GOP health care and tax bills.
Manning called herself a “business-oriented moderate” in an interview with the (Greensboro) News & Record announcing her campaign.
With the backing of the Club for Growth, Budd won a 17-person GOP primary last year, making him the de facto congressman in the Republican-leaning district. He went on to win the seat by 12 points last fall.
Budd ended the third quarter with $225,000 in his campaign account.
Manning’s fundraising potential makes her an appealing candidate for Democrats. She was the chief fundraiser for a $78 million performing arts center being built in Greensboro. She was the first woman to chair the board of the Jewish Federations of North America.
Manning wouldn’t say how much of her own funds she’ll spend on her race, or how much she thinks it’ll take to win.
“I’m sure I’ll put money into my campaign. I don’t want to ask other people to put money into my campaign, if I’m not willing,” she said.
Budd already purchased a domain name using Manning’s name that redirects to his campaign website.
“Kathy Manning is an establishment Democrat insider who’s worked for decades alongside far-left Democrats including Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, John Edwards, and Barack Obama,” Budd wrote on the site.
“Now, she is Nancy Pelosi’s hand-picked candidate to run against me and buy this seat for their hard-core liberal agenda,” he wrote.
Manning dismissed the references to Pelosi and Boxer as a page from the standard GOP playbook, but said she was proud to have supported many of those other Democrats.
She wouldn’t say whether she’d vote for Pelosi as leader if she makes it to Congress.
“Honestly, I have no idea. I haven’t thought about that,” she said. She couldn’t immediately specify a lawmaker whom she’d aspire to be like in Congress.
Manning’s success depends, in part, on her ability to win over more than a few Trump voters.
“That remains to be seen,” she said when asked how much she’d talk about the president in her race. “I’m going to spend my time focusing more on concerns of people in the district.“
Manning will face several other Democrats in the primary, which takes place May 8.