Courtesy of Bo Hines/Yale Athletics

In January, Yale graduate and former football receiver Bo Hines ’18 announced his intent to run for Congress.

Hines is a North Carolina resident and freshman All-American at North Carolina State who transferred to Yale after his first year. He is mounting a Republican primary campaign against incumbent Virginia Foxx in North Carolina’s 5th District. North Carolina Congressional primaries are expected to take place in spring of 2022.

“Transferring was one of the toughest decisions I’ve made in my life,” Hines told the News. “I knew I wanted to go into public service and I felt the best way to learn more about politics would be to go up to Yale and challenge myself with some of the best and the brightest and surround myself with people in the academic community that I knew would challenge me.”

After transferring, Hines only played in two games of football at Yale. Hines dealt with shoulder injuries in his only season on the Bulldogs’ roster, leading to his limited action and eventual withdrawal from the team.

Yale football head coach Tony Reno described Hines’s battle with injuries at the time as “unbelievably bad luck.”

“The football program at Yale is phenomenal and obviously Coach Reno has done a fantastic job there,” Hines said. “It was very unfortunate that I had the injuries that I did, but after two back-to-back season-ending shoulder injuries, I felt like God was telling me to move in another direction in my life.”

Hines’ decision to drop football did not surprise the NC State SB Nation blog, which described football as a “detour” for Hines. “He wants to be a politician and he is really driven about that,” NC State grad Steven Muma wrote for Backing the Pack.

Hines during his first fall at Yale in 2015. (Photos: Courtesy of Yale Athletics)

The Hartford Courant reported in 2017 that Hines would “like to start off as a representative of the 9th congressional district of North Carolina” — the first indication of his interest in running for Congress.

Foxx has represented the 5th District since 2005. The district encompasses part of eastern North Carolina, including Caldwell County, which covers the city of Lenoir. Over the past decade, Foxx has gained prominence as one of the most senior women in the Republican caucus. After the 2020 election, Republicans have 30 women in the House, 18 of whom were elected this cycle.

“Congresswoman Foxx, in particular, is the second most senior woman in the Republican party, in the House of Representatives. … She is regarded as a heavyweight politician in the state of North Carolina,” Jacob Rubashkin, a reporter and analyst for the popular election forecasting website Inside Elections, said. “I don’t think anyone thinks Virginia Foxx, at this moment, is particularly vulnerable. But we are more than a year away from any potential primaries, and we don’t know what the districts will look like, so a lot can happen between now and then.”

There is also the possibility of a Foxx candidacy for United States Senate, according to Rubashkin. Sen. Richard, R-North Carolina announced in 2016 that he will retire at the end of his term in 2022, which will vacate one of North Carolina’s Senate seats.

Foxx has been a popular representative during her time in office. In a district described by notable election forecasters as a “safe” or “solid” Republican seat, Foxx has faced primary opposition in the past few election cycles. Since 2014, she has never gotten less than two-thirds of the primary vote, making Hines’ challenge an uphill battle. “There’s a reason why we can, kind of, name all of the [incumbents] who lost to primary challengers in the House in recent years,” Rubashkin said. “And that reason is that there’s so few of them. It’s national news.”

Hines, notably, is running in the Republican primary, challenging Foxx. In 2016, a survey conducted by the News found that 75 percent of respondents did not think Yale was a welcoming place for conservatives. But Hines said he sought to embrace the leftward bent of the student body.

“Most people on the right would likely characterize Yale as a very liberal institution and I know that a lot of my peers were liberal, but that gave me the opportunity to have the types of debates and free exchange of ideas that allows us all to grow and expand our knowledge of each other’s beliefs,” Hines said. “And there were certainly people on campus, particularly in the Economics Department, who were more conservative. I felt solidarity with most of those folks.”

As a receiver at NC State in 2014, Hines made the Freshman All-America team, the Freshman All-ACC team and the Academic All-ACC team. (Photo: Courtesy of Jack Tarr/NC State Athletics)

Despite Hines’ early declaration, there is plenty of time before he officially needs to file as a candidate. For the 2020 election, the filing deadline to run for this seat was Dec. 20, 2019. As Rubashkin told the News, there is still much to be determined about the composition of the district.

Following the release of the 2020 census results, Republicans in North Carolina will begin drawing new districts as part of the redistricting process that takes place every decade. North Carolina’s quick population growth is expected to net the state an additional congressional seat.

North Carolina’s redistricting process has been the subject of controversy in the past. The state has been in a prolonged legal battle after being accused of gerrymandering districts to maximize Republican representation despite demographic trends making Democrats more competitive at the state level.

Still, Hines told the News that his campaign is “fairly confident that our district isn’t going to change too much. We may lose a few counties here and there, but we believe that we will retain most of the constituency we have been working with.”

The last Democrat to win an election in North Carolina’s 5th District was Stephen Neal, who lost his reelection campaign to Burr in 1994.

Nader Granmayeh | nader.granmayeh@yale.edu

NADER GRANMAYEH