Cheri Beasley emerges as NC’s frontrunner in Democratic Senate primary as Republicans continue to jockey

Politics

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Any North Carolina Democrat who wasn’t already on Cheri Beasley’s bandwagon in the U.S. Senate race is jumping now.

That started with her chief opponent, state Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte), who on Thursday withdrew from the race and jumped on for the ride with full force.

US Senate candidate profile: Cheri Beasley
US Senate candidate profile: Cheri Beasley

Jackson said that he had taken a hard assessment of his candidacy, saw that Beasley likely was going to win the nomination, and then decided that his efforts – and Beasley’s cash cache – would be best spent in helping the Democrats claim the seat being vacated by Republican Richard Burr.

The GOP continues to have a spirited campaign for its nomination, with former Gov. Pat McCrory, Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), and former Rep. Mark Walker all jockeying to win in the primary on May 17.

Beasley, 55, for the former state Supreme Court chief justice, lost her last race, to Paul Newby in 2020 by 401 votes. She went through the appropriate recounts before finally conceding that defeat.

Two months later she entered the Senate race along with Jackson and several others. State Rep. Erica Smith had been planning to run, too, but she pulled out and will make a bid for Congress in the new 1st Congressional District.

Beasley already had received dozens of endorsements, some from those serving in the House, and her campaign has gained significant momentum in recent weeks, even as Jackson was completing a tour of all 100 counties.

Candidate Jeff Jackson wants to raise expectations for NC's senators, starting with town halls in all 100 counties
Jeff Jackson attended town halls in all 100 counties

“Cheri Beasley has served this state honorably for over two decades and has always fought for justice,” Jackson said in his release endorsing Beasley. “She’ll be a great U.S. Senator for North Carolina. Unlike the Republicans in this race, we won’t be participating in a costly and divisive primary.”

On Friday morning U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) also endorsed Beasley. Manning, who is waiting for the courts to evaluate the state’s congressional maps before deciding if she will seek re-election in a newly drawn district, calls Beasley a friend.

“Cheri is a trailblazer with a track record in public service as a Judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals and as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court,” Manning said in her statement. “We need her voice in Washington, fighting for the people of North Carolina.”

Because the state Supreme Court paused the filing period – and the primary election – while challenges to the zoning maps are heard, none of those were among the seven names officially on the ballot.

The GOP list is Jen Banwart of Holly Springs, Lee A. Brian of Clayton, Benjamin E. Griffiths of Cleveland, Charles Kenneth Moss of Randleman, and Lichia Sibhatu of Raleigh. The Democrats are Constance “Lov” Johnson of Charlotte and Rett Newton of Beaufort.

In the GOP race

Former Gov. Pat McCrory (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Since the Supreme Court paused the election and ordered an expedited trial in a lawsuit challenging the electoral maps the General Assembly approved in November – suggesting they are racially and politically gerrymandered – there has been no more clarity in the GOP’s Senate race, even though those maps don’t affect the race.

In case you’ve not been following this, McCrory has been leading polls, but former President Donald Trump threw his support behind Budd. Club for Growth, the PAC that helped Budd win his first trip to Congress in 2016, pledged $10 million to support his candidacy and recently launched attack ads aimed at McCrory, who has fought back bitterly against the ads.

Republican Congressman Ted Budd speaks at a Make America Great Again rally in Greensboro International Airport, in Greensboro, North Carolina on October 27, 2020. (Photo by Grant BALDWIN / AFP) (Photo by GRANT BALDWIN/AFP via Getty Images)
Republican Congressman Ted Budd speaks at a Make America Great Again rally in Greensboro International Airport, in Greensboro, North Carolina on October 27, 2020. (Photo by Grant BALDWIN / AFP) (Photo by GRANT BALDWIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Walker, who served two terms in the 6th District but didn’t seek re-election after the courts redrew it to include only Guilford County and Winston-Salem in 2020, has been encouraged to withdraw from the Senate race and run for Congress in the newly drawn 7th District, which would include most of the territory in Guilford County and farther east that he had served.

Walker met with Trump and others two weeks ago, and some expected that an endorsement from Trump would’ve meant he was switching races. But that endorsement has not materialized, and now the primary has been delayed. Walker says for now he is staying in the Senate race. He and his wife put out a holiday video this week to address the topic.

FILE – In this Sept. 18, 2019, file photo, Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C. speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. With three of North Carolina’s 13 U.S. House incumbents not seeking reelection, nearly 30 congressional candidates are scrambling to win Tuesday, March 4, 2020 primaries in these districts with hopes of soon filling the rare number of open seats (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Meanwhile, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-Henderson), who represents the 11th District now and has announced plans to run outside that district in the 13th under the new map, is playing some sort of role in helping align Republican candidates with Trump in various races, including the 7th District.

When the court halted filing after two days last week, no one had filed for the 7th District, which has no incumbent as currently drawn. Several have expressed interest in running.

Tidbits

  • Budd issued a statement to oppose raising the debt ceiling, which was approved earlier this week: “This massive raising of the debt ceiling paves the way for our country’s debt to surpass $31 trillion. If a main street small business or a family ran their finances this way, they would be bankrupt. The federal government should play by those same rules and operate with efficiency and fiscal responsibility. I cannot participate in enabling Washington’s spending addiction.”
  • The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce this week released its annual report card on how members of the NC General Assembly voted on issues that affected business. The organization gives a percentage in voting for each person. For instance, the two senates who represent Guilford County: Republican Phil Berger was scored 100% in 2021, and Democrat Michael Garrett scored 87%.
  • Despite the halt to candidate filing, there are numerous candidates across the Piedmont Triad who have filed for office.

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