RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina Democrats are cautiously optimistic their fortunes will improve in 2014 after serving completely in the state's political wilderness for the first time in more than 140 years.

Party leaders and organizers say they're energized after a year in which legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed by new Gov. Pat McCrory led to massive public protests. They hope it will lead to seat gains in the legislature and re-election for U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

Republicans aren't backing away from their policy agenda and say it's put the state on better financial footing. They want to make Hagan's race about her record, particularly on the health care overhaul law.

Democrats entered 2013 with Republicans controlling the executive and legislative branches simultaneously for the first time since 1870.

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