Ellmers criticizes her party in the statement, saying it needs to "do a much better job listening, connecting, and reaching out to women."

Few strategists in North Carolina or Washington were expecting Ellmers to run against Sen. Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (D-N.C.), though buzz around the congresswoman's name had increased some in recent weeks. The seat is a top priority for Senate Republicans, and could be the one the GOP needs to win to take back Senate control.

North Carolina state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) is currently the GOP front-runner, though there have been some early concerns from strategists about his campaign. North Carolina state Senate President Phil Berger (R) and Charlotte-based pastor Mark Harris (R) are both seriously considering a run.