I was interested to see Laura Leslie report that Bonner Stiller ran for reelection last year even though he wanted to step down because Republicans were concerned about losing his seat.
It's true that this seat has been competitive in the not so distant past. Powerful Democrat David Redwine held it for years before losing it by just 169 votes in 2002 and then a slightly more conclusive 457 in 2004. Stiller was reelected by wide margins in 2006 and 2008 after Redwine stopped trying to get his seat back.
Still, I'm not sure how good of an opportunity there is for Democrats here even in an open seat situation. Brunswick County is certainly trending in a Republican direction. For instance let's took at the Presidential results there. In 2004 John Kerry lost the county by 21 points and in 2008 Barack Obama lost it by 17 points. So Obama's four point gain in that county runs well behind the more than 12 point gain he made relative to Kerry statewide that allowed him to win North Carolina. 53% of straight ticket voters in the county last year were Republicans even as just 40% were statewide.
That's not to say it's impossible for a Democrat to win here. Civitas' partisan index shows NC-17 as R+8 and there are Democrats representing comparably Republican districts, including Ray Warren's R+11 and Alice Underhill and Bob England's R+7's. But the trend for Democrats is not good here, and that's why I thought it was a little odd Republicans apparently goaded him to run again for fear of losing the seat. They would have to mess up pretty bad not to retain this district.