Will Mark Harris get into the Senate debate?

Posted by Jim Morrill on April 7, 2014 

A Raleigh TV station plans to broadcast a Republican U.S. Senate debate on April 23, less than two weeks before the primary. But so far, one of the top candidates hasn’t been invited.

Charlotte pastor Mark Harris missed the cut, according to WRAL’s news director.

Debaters will include House Speaker Thom Tillis, Cary physician Greg Brannon and Wilkesboro nurse Heather Grant. It will mark one of Tillis’ first appearances onstage with his rivals.

There are eight Republicans running for the nomination to oppose Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan. News Director Rick Gall said candidates had to hit at least 10 percent in a poll to qualify for the debate when invitations were sent in late March.

“We’re continuing to assess the race and polling numbers,” Gall said in an email.

While Harris’ numbers have sagged in many polls, he’s considered one of the top candidates. At the end of the year, he had more cash on hand than all candidates but Tillis.

“It would be an absolute disservice to the voters of North Carolina to not include Mark Harris in this or any other debate,” said Harris campaign manager Mike Rusher. “We’ve held the date and look forward to receiving the invitation.”

WRAL’s broadcast will come a day after a debate sponsored by the Observer, the Raleigh News & Observer and Time Warner Cable News. Four candidates, including Harris, have been invited.

For that debate, candidates had to reach a 7 percent threshold in three independent polls.

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