Parties pour resources into House races

Charlotte-area voters will play a part in determining whether Democrats pick up a wider majority in Congress.

The state's Democrats appear to be on solid footing going into Nov. 4, when all 435 seats in Congress are up for election. But a pair of area Republicans – Reps. Robin Hayes and Patrick McHenry – are on national Democrats' target list.

Here's how the local races are shaping up:

8th District

One of the most closely watched races in the nation is the rematch between Rep. Robin Hayes, a Concord Republican, and teacher Larry Kissell, a Democrat from Biscoe, east of Albemarle. Hayes won the contest by just 330 votes two years ago.

A primary issue they differ on is drilling off the coast of North Carolina – Hayes is for it and Kissell is opposed to it.

The district contains more registered Democrats than Republicans, so a strong turnout for presidential hopeful Barack Obama in North Carolina could influence this race.

9th District

Rep. Sue Myrick, a Charlotte Republican, is being challenged by Democrat Harry Taylor, a real estate broker from Charlotte, in the GOP-leaning district.

Taylor is best known for something he said before becoming a candidate. He told President Bush that he ought to have the humility and grace to be “ashamed” of himself after Bush's 2006 speech at Central Piedmont Community College.

Taylor criticized Myrick for initially voting against the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, and later voting for it.

Myrick, an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration, has said she wants to drill off the Carolina coast to reduce energy dependence on other nations.

10th District

Another seat Democrats hope to pick up is the one held by Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Cherryville Republican, who is trying to win a third term against Hickory attorney Daniel Johnson.

Though McHenry's district is largely viewed as solidly Republican, Democrats think they have a likable candidate in Johnson, an injured Navy veteran who is pledging bipartisanship over an incumbent who is viewed as occasionally combative.

12th District

Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat, will face Ty Cobb Jr., a retired military officer and engineer from rural Rowan County, in the highly Democratic district.

Republican Cobb said he thinks Watt was in a position to do more to prevent the Wall Street collapse as chairman of the oversight subcommittee of the Financial Services Committee.

Watt said he thinks seniority, experience and ideology are important.