The Pulse

Field notes: Dispatches from U.S. Senate election – Vol. 4

By: - February 27, 2022 9:16 am
Cheri Beasley

Beasley files

Cheri Beasley, the leading fundraiser in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race, was the first top-tier candidate to make it official when filing reopened this week.

Beasley, former Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, filed Thursday morning after her former colleagues on the court approved a new set of maps for congressional and legislative districts.

If elected she would be the first Black woman to serve in the Senate from North Carolina and only the third Black woman in Senate history.

“I will bring the same values I was raised with – hard work, faith and fairness – to fight for North Carolina in the U.S. Senate,” Beasley said in a statement after filing her the paperwork in Raleigh.

Beasley didn’t have long to enjoy the moment. In a reminder of the challenge ahead, Cook Political Report changed its rating on the North Carolina race on Friday from toss-up to leans Republican.

In a post outlining the reasons for the call, Cook’s Senate and Governors editor Jessica Taylor said President Joe Biden’s numbers in North Carolina will make it difficult for Beasley to win.

Taylor acknowledged Beasley’s fundraising and the increasingly nasty GOP primary, but said they don’t outweigh the national dynamics. “[W]hen we look at the other races in our Toss Up column, all the others are ones that Biden did carry in 2020; only in North Carolina did Trump win the state twice,” Taylor wrote. “In a better year for Democrats or even all other factors behind equal, Beasley might even be slightly favored or at least even after what could be a nasty primary. But this seat has begun to stand out as more difficult for Democrats to flip given the history and headwinds of the state.”

Beasley spokesperson Dory MacMillan said the race will be about what’s important to North Carolinians.

“As a mom who raised her family in North Carolina and former Chief Justice, Cheri understands the challenges North Carolinians face and will fight to lower costs and expand access to affordable health care,” MacMillan said in an email. “She’s won statewide before because voters know she is an independent leader who puts them first, and North Carolinians will elect her to the Senate in November.”

Also on Friday, Beasley picked up the endorsement of Giffords PAC, the gun safety reform group established by former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously wounded in a shooting at a campaign event in 2011. Giffords is married to Arizona Senator Mark Kelly. The PAC supported former Senator Kay Hagan in her unsuccessful 2014 re-election bid against Thom Tillis.

Beasley shares the primary ballot with four other Democrats although that number could change. Candidates who signed up in December before a court order in redistricting cases halted filing have until March 1 to withdraw. Two candidates joined the race along with Beasley on Thursday; Chrelle Booker of Columbus and Greg Antoine of Fayetteville.

The filing period closes at noon on March 4.

Pat McCrory

GOP candidates debate

Former governor and mayor Charlotte Pat McCrory made his candidacy official on Friday posting afterward on social media that he’s the “common sense outsider” in the race. “For far too long, the Washington insiders have steered this nation in the wrong direction and now we’ve got record debt, open borders, shut down schools, surging inflation, and multiple crises’ across the globe,” he said.

On Saturday, three of the four top-tier Republican candidates took to the stage at Raleigh’s Crabtree Valley Marriott for the first GOP Senate debate, which for some strange reason started at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, with roughly 14 minutes left to play in the UNC-N.C. State basketball game.

The hour-long event, sponsored by the John Locke Foundation, featured McCrory, Marjorie Eastman and Mark Walker. Ted Budd, the party’s top fundraiser, declined, saying he will join the debates after the filing period closes

Marjorie Eastman

Eastman, the newcomer to the field who had an impressive round of fundraising after she entered the race last fall, spent much of her time introducing herself to voters as a combat veteran, small business person and “the mom in the race.”

She also joined McCrory and Walker in chiding Budd for being a no-show.

“Should we give a minute to the empty podium? Anybody?,” she asked at one point.

Mark Walker

Ted Budd

McCrory touted his record as governor and focused much of his attention on Budd who he attacked last week for business ties to George Soros and friendliness with Russia. Recent polling shows the two of them essentially tied in a head to head race.

Walker emphasized his record in Congress and also focused his attacks on Budd. He stressed his independence and said if elected he would support Florida Sen. Rick Scott should Scott challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the leadership.

McCrory disagreed and praised what he described as McConnell’s skill in handling former President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominees.

Eastman said she met with McConnell before running, but stopped short of saying she’d support him saying only that she looked forward to voting on the leadership if elected as senators do every two years.

Jeff Jackson

Jackson goes for congressional run

State Sen. Jeff Jackson returned to social media this week after taking a hiatus following his departure from the Senate primary in late December.

Jackson, who ended his campaign with a gracious concession, a full-throated endorsement of Beasley and more than $800,000 cash on hand, tweeted Thursday that he was giving serious thought to running in a newly-redrawn congressional seat.

He filed the next day in the new 14th congressional district. Jackson, who had a strong online fundraising operation reported raising $61,000 after announcing.


• Fayetteville Observer — Former Army intelligence officer, Senate candidate: Putin is not our friend
• Rick Hasen in Slate — North Carolina Republicans Ask SCOTUS To Decimate Voting Rights in Every State
• News & Observer — NC Republicans appeal gerrymandering decision to US Supreme Court
• WRAL — Vice President Kamala Harris to visit Durham to talk about wages, worker’s unions
• McClatchy DC — As bombs fall on Ukraine, NC’s Budd listens to Trump call Putin ‘very smart’
• Politico — North Carolina officials reject Cawthorn claim that Constitution’s insurrectionist ban no longer applies
• WaPo — The Forgotten District
• Indyweek — Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson Made Hateful Comments About LGBTQ People—Then Raked in the Cash

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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