N. Carolina Dems having trouble finding someone to beat GOP's Burr

RALEIGH — For North Carolina Democrats, the approaching race against Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr looks like a summer rerun: another scramble to find a credible challenger.

Last year, Democrats struggled to find someone to challenge Sen. Elizabeth Dole. This time, party members are going through an awkward dance to find a candidate to go toe-to-toe with Burr in 2010.

"There is a vacuum," said Gary Pearce, a veteran Democratic strategist in Raleigh. "Nobody has really stepped in to fill it, nobody with the name or the money or the backing to put an end to all of this."

So the list of potential Democratic candidates continues to grow. There are little-known figures such as former state Sen. Cal Cunningham of Lexington, Durham lawyer Kenneth Lewis and Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy who seem eager to jump into the race.

And there are potential candidates who are better known, but seem less sure. They include U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge of Lillington, former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker of Sanford, and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall of Lillington.

North Carolina has long leaned Republican in U.S. Senate races, a function of the state's cultural conservatism and pro-military bent. The GOP has won nine of the past 13 Senate races in North Carolina.

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