Under the Dome

The top 5 state House races in 2014

Unlike the Senate, many House seats are expected to be in play next November, as Democrats will try to whittle away at the strong 77-43 majority now enjoyed by Republicans.

Here are the Insider’s top five races expected to garner attention in 2014, based on interviews with lawmakers, campaign consultants and insiders from both parties. Of course, much can happen over the next few months to change these races as potential candidates decide whether they're in or out.

House District 3 (Beaufort, Craven, Pamlico): Democrats believe Whit Whitley, a businessman and attorney from New Bern who recently announced his candidacy, gives them a solid chance of unseating Republican Rep. Michael Speciale, a former Marine from New Bern. Whitley is positioning himself as a middle of the road candidate. Speciale took 59 percent of the votes against a Democrat here in 2012, but with fewer voters expected to turn out in a non-presidential election year, anything could happen on the East Coast.

House District 6 (Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Washington): Democratic Rep. Paul Tine, an insurance agent and business owner, lives in a very Republican district. In fact, his district is considered by many to be the worst House district for Democrats currently held by a Democrat. Tine was the only Democrat on the ballot in his district who won in 2012, showing how Republicans control the area politically. But Tine has shown a willingness and ability to work across the aisle, which may help him come campaign time. Tine won his 2012 contest by a slim 458 votes out of more than 41,000 cast.

House District 9 (Pitt): Democrats believe this is a seat they can win back in 2014 after losing it to Republican Brian Brown in 2012. Brown defeated former Rep. Marian McLawhorn in a close race. It's unclear who will challenge Brown, but Democrats apparently have their eyes on at least one solid candidate here.

House District 41 (Wake): Republican Rep. Tom Murry, a pharmacist from Morrisville, has landed key committee posts from the House leadership, but he also represents a tough district for Republicans on paper. Meanwhile, Cary Councilwoman Gale Adcock, a Democrat, confirmed Monday that she plans to run for the seat. Murry garnered only 52 percent of the votes in 2012 against Democrat Jim Messina despite outspending him $500,000 to $200,000.

House District 51 (Harnett, Lee): Harnett County attorney and farmer Brad Salmon, a lifelong resident of that area, almost won a Senate seat in 2012, losing to Sen. Ronald Rabin, 51 percent to 49 percent. But he's back for more and now challenging incumbent Rep. Mike Stone, a Republican and Sanford business owner. Stone had a tough time himself in 2012, getting 52 percent of the votes against a Democratic challenger. He also won a close race in 2010. Of course, fracking is a hot-button issue here.