Jackson atop NC Senate fundraising; Walker coffers also full

Politics

Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson (Chris Seward/The News & Observer via AP)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina state Sen. Jeff Jackson had a sizeable fundraising advantage entering this month over other Democratic opponents in the 2022 U.S. Senate race, while a former Republican congressman running also has flush coffers so far, according to new campaign finance reports.

Jackson’s committee raised nearly $1.3 million between the time he announced his candidacy in late January and the end of March, and had more than $838,000 in cash on hand. He also outraised former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican who announced his bid in December to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr.

Walker brought in $209,000 during the first quarter, which is less than one-sixth of Jackson’s fundraising haul. He entered April with nearly $913,000 at his disposal, as his committee had more than $572,000 in cash before he launched his candidacy. First-quarter reports were due Thursday.

The competition to replace Burr is expected to be among the costliest campaigns in 2022, as Democrats look to pick up the open seat and expand a majority in the U.S. Senate allowed now only by Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking votes. Republicans, meanwhile, are looking to retake control of the chamber so they can serve as a greater check on President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.

Jackson’s total is an early signal of his viability and gives him a substantial edge over several other Democrats vying for the party’s nomination. The Charlotte attorney outraised former state Sen. Erica Smith in the first quarter by a more than 11-to-1 margin. Smith, who unsuccessfully ran for the 2020 Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, raised nearly $112,000 by the end of March. That number does not include loans.

Virologist Richard Watkins raised just $7,400 from outside donors. Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton declared his candidacy earlier this month, which fell after the latest fundraising reporting period.

The Democratic field may soon expand, as former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is expected to enter the race later this month. Beasley, the first Black woman to hold the chief justice post, lost her 2020 reelection bid by just 401 votes out of the nearly 5.4 million ballots cast. An advocacy group promoting candidates with scientific backgrounds has also encouraged former NASA astronaut Joan Higginbotham to enter the contest.

The Republican field also has increased since the latest fundraising period ended, as former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory announced his bid Wednesday. Lara Trump, former President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, has not yet ruled out a Senate run in North Carolina.

Another shakeup in the Republican primary is possible. GOP Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a political newcomer who voters elected to statewide office less than six months ago, is also mulling a run. Speaking from his office this week, he said in a video that “many people who have great confidence in us” have urged him in recent weeks to enter the race. Robinson also referred to a poll that showed him performing well in a GOP primary.

“We have decided to take a serious look at this race,” Robinson said in the video.

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