The Pulse

Field notes: Dispatches from the 2022 U.S. Senate election

By: - January 28, 2022 1:24 pm
Us senate seal
U.S. government, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

[Editor’s note: This is the first in what will be a regular series of end-of-the-work-week news roundups from veteran journalist Kirk Ross on the 2022 North Carolina U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Republican Richard Burr.]

Walker stays in the race

Mark Walker didn’t just say ‘no’ to high-level entreaties to get out of the Republican Senate primary, he said ‘heck no.’

With a new bus for a backdrop, Walker told the crowd at a rally in Greensboro Thursday night that he was urged to drop out of the race and run for a seat in the U.S. House in a conversation with former President Donald Trump at a meeting at Mar-a-Lago during which Trump offered his endorsement. He also received an offer of campaign appearances with former Vice President Mike Pence if he made the move.

“The last 45 days have been a whirlwind,” Walker said. “We were thrilled to get all these endorsements and asking about the U.S. House.”

But the former congressman said he’s staying in the race, noting that he stood his ground and won his congressional seat in 2014 after being told by GOP leaders they were backing someone else. Walker lost the first primary that year, but won in a runoff.

He told the crowd in Greensboro that he seriously considered changing races, but that when he stepped away from congress last January he was determined to run statewide.

Rep. Ted Budd

“So, obviously as you see the bus tonight, what we’re basically saying is that we’re going to stay on that path and we’re going to keep working on this.”

Although consistently polling behind former governor Pat McCrory and U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, Walker’s presence in the race is likely to affect the outcome.

A recent Civitas poll shows Budd with a slight edge over McCrory in a head to head contest, but McCrory with a solid lead in a three way race.

Walker and McCrory have bonded recently in chiding Budd for not joining them at recent campaign forums as Budd continues to build support, including the reiteration of the former president’s endorsement in a Trump email blast last week.

Radio Free Pat

The McCrory campaign came out firing against “cancel culture” after a CNN KFILE report on the former governor’s take on being turned down for a position at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

In a January 2021 radio show, McCrory said he was blacklisted by Duke University after protests by students and faculty against his potential appointment. He then compared his experience to African-Americans being refused service at lunch counters during segregation.

“They were blacklisted because of the color of their skin,” McCrory says in an excerpt provided by CNN. “Other people are now being blacklisted because of our politics. And it’s both wrong. It’s both deplorable. And we’ve got to speak out against it.”

McCrory spokesperson Jordan Shaw told CNN that  McCrory, who moved to Greensboro in 1966, considers the students who protested at lunch counters heroes and “their example drives Gov. McCrory to call-out cancel culture where it exists today, whether in politics, religion, academia, business, or media.”

North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Bobbie Richardson called McCrory’s remarks offensive.

“North Carolinians have come to expect this type of ignorant, self-important rhetoric from Pat McCrory, and it’s exactly why they voted him out in 2016,” Richardson said in a statement Friday. “As an alumna of the then-still-segregated Perry High School, it is clear to me that Mr. McCrory has a lot to learn about what the brave students who participated in the Woolworth sit-in endured. I assure him that his experiences have nothing in common with those heroes.”

McCrory’s tenure on the radio was bound to be mined for content and the lunch counter report isn’t likely to be the last. The story noted that McCrory’s comments “were reviewed by CNN’s KFILE as part of a look at the rhetoric he used after leaving office in 2017.”

Cheri Beasley

Anita Earls

Court consideration

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice and Democratic front-runner Cheri Beasley and state Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls were listed among potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees after President Biden’s recommitment this week to nominate an African-American woman to replace Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced his retirement Wednesday.

Both Earls, whose term runs to 2026, and Beasley applauded the president’s statement.

“Diversity means and representation means, frankly, for all the decisions that the US Supreme Court makes, it matters that those who are in service have a real appreciation and understanding of the law and the impact of those laws and the Constitution, and the impact of those decisions on people’s everyday lives,” Beasley told April Ryan in The Grio on Wednesday.

Campaign spokesperson Dory MacMillan said Beasley remains focused on her Senate run, which has been consolidating support since the withdraw of state Sen. Jeff Jackson from the race last month.

Governor Roy Cooper made his support for her candidacy official earlier this month just as she reported a hefty $2.1 million in fourth quarter fundraising and $2.8 million in cash on hand going into the new year.

“Cheri is fully committed to running for the U.S. Senate to fight for North Carolina to lower costs, grow good-paying jobs, strengthen our schools, and ensure our seniors can retire with dignity,” MacMillan said Friday.

Primary still set for May

For now, the primary date remains May 17, as per a late December court order in redistricting cases that halted filing and delayed the original March 8 election.

On Friday (today), Governor Roy Cooper vetoed legislation passed along party lines that would have delayed the primary until June 7, a move sponsors said was necessary to give the legislature ample time to redraw new districts should the state Supreme Court strike down maps passed last year. Read Cooper’s veto statement by clicking here.


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Kirk Ross

Kirk Ross, 2022 Election Correspondent, is a longtime North Carolina journalist covering the 2022 U.S. Senate race for Policy Watch and States Newsroom. For the past decade, Kirk has reported on state politics and public policy as a member of the Capital Press Corps for Carolina Public Press and the Washington Post and on environmental, climate change and energy policy for Coastal Review. Kirk was a Chapel Hill News and News & Observer local government and education reporter, managing editor of INDY Week and co-founder and editor of the fondly-remembered Carrboro Citizen weekly. [email protected] 919-737-5096