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Candidates gear up for NC congressional race

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -

With U.S. Rep. Mel Watt's confirmation as the nation's top housing regulator, candidates looking to succeed him in his North Carolina congressional district can move forward with their plans.

In May, President Barack Obama picked the veteran Democrat to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency. It oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages.

But until Tuesday, the nomination had languished because of Republican complaints that Watt is unqualified. Democrats say that is untrue.

At least seven people said they'd run for Watt's 12th Congressional district seat if he was confirmed.

Gov. Pat McCrory can call a special election to fill out Watt's two-year term. But first, Watt must resign from his congressional seat.

Kim Genardo, McCrory's communications director, said Wednesday the governor was waiting for the State Board of Elections to recommend a timeline for a special election.

It would be held at least 90 days after the vacancy occurs.

The ultimate winner would be the likely front-runner to keep the seat in the November 2014 election.

Watt, 68, has won by comfortable margins in the general elections for years in the heavily Democratic district, which starts in Charlotte and goes north along Interstate 85 to Greensboro, taking in parts of Winston-Salem.

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