The Pulse

U.S. Senate race field notes — Vol. 10

By: - May 25, 2022 12:36 pm
The race between Cheri Beasley (left) and Ted Budd (right) for North Carolina’s open U.S. Senate seat is in full swing.

Door for more candidates is still ajar

The networks weren’t very deep into their election night coverage when the field of candidates in this year’s U.S. Senate race dropped from 26-3.

For the record, left standing and on the ballot in the fall are are Republican Rep. Ted Budd, Democrat and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and Libertarian Shannon Bray. So far.

There’s still a chance that the list could grow, albeit a remote chance.

North Carolina is one of the tougher states for an independent to get on the ballot. The number of valid signatures required for an individual to gather to run statewide is 1.5% of the total number of North Carolinians who voted in the most recent governor’s race. This year, that threshold is 83,188.

But it’s a little easier if a candidate is added to the ballot by a political party, because the threshold for registering a political party with the state is far lower, just .25%.

In the 2022 cycle, the requirement is 13,865 valid signatures of registered voters who voted in the last governor’s race. The parties also have to have to show they have valid signatures from at least 200 voters in each county.

The deadline to submit the petitions and signatures to local elections offices was noon on Primary Day, May 17. County elections boards are in the process of verifying signatures and voter information ahead of a June 1 deadline to report them to the State Board of Elections.

According to the latest totals, the Constitution Party has submitted 3,590 of which 2,887 have been deemed valid so far.

The North Carolina Green Party is even closer and has submitted 14,147 of which 10,540 are listed as valid so far.

Board of Elections spokesman Patrick Gannon said the totals reflect the signatures that counties have reviewed and verified and don’t reflect those still in process. Should either party reach the threshold, it could still qualify for this year’s ballot, he said. You can check for updates on the petitions here.

Should it meet the threshold, the North Carolina Green Party has already selected Matthew Hoh of Wake Forest as its candidate. Hoh is a Marine Corps veteran and civil service official who served in Afghanistan. In 2009, he resigned his position and became an outspoken opponent of administration plans to escalate U.S. operations.

Meet the new poll

Until this week, the only head-to-head poll of Budd and Beasley was an early May Emerson poll showing Budd up 7% with 10% undecided.
Now, there a fresh, post-primary poll on the books from East Carolina University Center for Survey Research showing a similar lead for Budd.

The May 19-20 poll of 635 registered voters shows Budd ahead of Beasley 47% to 39% with 14% still undecided.

The survey also shows President Joe Biden’s approval rating in North Carolina at one of its worst levels with 35%respondents saying they approve of the president’s job performance, 55% saying they disapprove and 10% undecided. Biden’s ratings are one of the major factors playing into the narrative that Beasley is facing a difficult election cycle.[Links to top lines and crosstabs here]

The latest Quinnipiac poll and others recent approval rating polls show a split between Biden’s numbers and the generic numbers in congressional races, with Republicans running slightly ahead of Democrats nationwide.

That’s similar to the split here in the new ECU poll, which has the GOP in the lead in the generic congressional results 47% to 44% with 7% undecided.

Those numbers become less meaningful after the primary since the candidates are set in the 14 congressional races. Whether any of them should be described as generic is more a matter of personal choice at this point.

Democrats spend some $

Eyebrows were arched following reports in late April that North Carolina’s Senate race wasn’t part of an initial $30 million ad buy for the general election by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

But a fresh $1.3 million burst of spending by a national Democratic super PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer may calm some nerves.

The ad, paid for by the Democratic Senate Majority PAC, fires back at an ad put out last week by the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee attacking Beasley.

They’re the early volleys in a four-way exchange involving both parties’ senatorial committees and leadership PACs controlled by Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The DSCC has yet to announce a major spend, but was out with an online ad after the primary, which might sound familiar if you followed the GOP primary and heard former Governor Pat McCrory’s refrain that Budd is just another Washington insider.

The DSCC ad is titled “Washington Insider.”

Hot takes aplenty

Following North Carolina’s turn in the primary spotlight, there’s been no shortage of punditry around the Budd-Beasley match-up.
Most of the stories on the race fall into two camps: why Beasley faces a tough set of circumstances; and how she might win despite that. All of them come at a point when it is far to early to assume anything.

Here’s a sample pack:

Politico — Democrats confront North Carolina blues

Bloomberg — North Carolina Senate Race May Be Decided by Independent Voters

The Griot — US Senate candidates Beasley and Booker make history with primary election wins

WRAL — Budd, Beasley take aim at one another as focus shifts to November election (video)

North State Journal — Nominees Budd, Beasley turn focus to November

Ned Barnett — Beasley vs. Budd could decide U.S. Senate and define North Carolina

The Assembly — Cheri Beasley’s Record is On Trial

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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