GREENSBORO, N.C. — Former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory announced his plan to run for U.S. Senate in the 2022 election.
The hotly contested seat currently belongs to Senator Richard Burr, who announced he would not seek re-election.
Other big names already eyeing Sen. Burr's seat include former Congressman Mark Walker and state Senate member Jeff Jackson.
The candidates all announced their bids early on in the game, and there's a big reason why that matters.
UNCG political science professor Thom Little says it all boils down to weeding out the competition.
"If I'm looking to run and I see somebody with Pat McCrory's name recognition and see what he's going to have in the bank account, I'm going to have second thoughts about running," Little explained, "you want to get in there early and define what lane you're going to be in for the Republican party. Walker has placed himself in the Trump supporter lane. I think McCrory has said 'I'm going to be more conservative, I'm going to be in that more pro-business conservative lane in this race.'"
There are also candidates who are rumored to announce their candidacy soon. Little says anyone interested needs to step up now rather than later.
"The way the world is now, I think you have to get in in the next couple of months because, again, people are already identifying where they're going to be in that race. Both parties are going to have very contested primaries and you're going to have to identify what is going to distinguish you from those other candidates," said Little.
The North Carolina U.S. Senate race will be a big one in the 2022 election because it could tip the balance of power in the Senate. Pennsylvania is also a battleground state for this election, according to Little.
More than $271 million was spent on the 2020 U.S. Senate race between Senator Thom Tillis and contender Cal Cunningham, making it the most expensive congressional race last year.
Thom Little predicts $500 million could be spent by all the candidates in both the primary and general elections.