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Charlotte pastor considers U.S. Senate run

One of Charlotte’s most prominent church leaders – and a man at the forefront of last year’s fight for North Carolina’s marriage amendment – is weighing a bid for U.S. Senate.

The Rev. Mark Harris, pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said Monday he’s listening to those who want him to run for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination next year.

Harris, 47, met in Charlotte last week with about 70 people from around 20 North Carolina counties who are trying to draft him to run.

“I’m certainly humbled and flattered by the confidence that these folks have expressed,” he said. “It’s a little bit overwhelming to be honest. Right now we’re doing two things. One … doing a lot of listening to people and the second and most importantly to me is just to pray and seek God’s leadership … and see if that’s his plan for me.”

Harris announced that to his congregation at the end of Sunday’s service, and walked off to a standing ovation.

Republicans will choose a nominee a year from now in the GOP primary to challenge Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate President Phil Berger, U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers and former Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Wheeler are considering the race.

Last year, Harris campaigned heavily for Amendment One, which recognizes marriage between a man and a woman as the only valid union recognized in the state.

He has hosted Republican precinct meetings at his church and last year brought in a number of prominent conservative speakers, including former presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

A few weeks ago, Harris met with GOP consultant Tom Perdue of Atlanta, onetime chief strategist for former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes, now the state’s Republican chairman. Among the many GOP candidates Perdue has helped were former U.S. Sens. Paul Coverdell of Georgia and Bill Frist of Tennessee.

“There are a lot of people concerned about the direction our country is moving in,” Perdue said. “So naturally people of faith will turn to people they trust as a man of faith. There’s a base of knowledge about (Harris) because of the marriage amendment.”

Perdue said he’s helping gauge the strength of any grass-roots movement for a Harris candidacy. The message he left supporters at last week’s meeting: “See if there is a groundswell of people who want a godly man like this to run for public office.”

“I did make clear the goal is not to get Mark to run for the U.S. Senate,” he said. “The goal is to get Mark to do God’s will for his life.”

Morrill: 704-358-5059
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