Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Democrat Cheri Beasley Could Be the Next Senator From North Carolina

Conventional wisdom has decreed that Democrats are likely to lose their congressional majorities in the 2022 midterm elections. But a lot can happen over the next ten months, so it is probably time to get busy weighing in on how we can all ensure that conventional wisdom is proven wrong this time.

In the Senate, not only is it important for Democrats to maintain their 50 seats, the only way to ensure that legislation can actually get passed is to build an actual majority. Maintenance requires that Mark Kelly (AZ), Raphael Warnock (GA), and Catherine Masto (NV) all win re-election in races that are currently considered toss-ups.

But in looking at other Senate races that are possible pick-ups, the one for an open seat in North Carolina (where Richard Burr will not seek re-election) is worth highlighting. Before looking at the candidates for 2022, it is worth noting what has been happening in the state over the last few years.

In 2008, Barack Obama won North Carolina. He went on to lose to Mitt Romney by a narrow margin in 2012. Donald Trump won the state in both 2016 and 2020, just as the same voters chose a Democrat, Roy Cooper, to be their governor. Democrat Cal Cunningham lost the 2020 Senate election to Republican incumbent Thom Tillis by less than 2% after news broke that Cunningham had an extramarital affair.

According to the 2020 census, North Carolina is the fourth fastest growing state in the country, behind only Texas, Arizona, and Florida. While more than half of the state's (mostly rural) counties lost population, 78% of the growth occurred in the two largest metro areas (Raleigh and Wilmington). Virtually all of that growth was in the adult (voting age) population. 

For the 2022 election, the Republican primary will likely come down to a contest between former governor Pat McCrory and Representative Ted Budd. Initially McCrory was favored to win, but when Lara Trump announced that she would not run, Donald Trump endorsed Budd at the state's Republican convention last summer. The party faithful are now lining up behind Trump's pick and Budd is leading the race. 

It will come as no surprise that, prior to an endorsement from the former guy, Budd demonstrated the kind of loyalty Trump expects. He voted against certification of the 2020 electoral votes and said that the January 6 insurrection "was just patriots standing up.”

At his campaign website, Budd declares himself to be a "liberal agenda crusher." The issues he promotes are standard fare for Republicans these days: cut taxes, support law enforcement, secure the border (ie, build the wall), suppress the vote, defend the 2nd Amendment, and ban abortions. Here's his introductory ad for the campaign:

As is so often the case with Republicans, that ad makes a man whose net worth is around $6.5 million look like one of the good-old-boys at the monster truck show. But the important thing to keep in mind is that he has completely tied his fate to that of Donald Trump. We'll see how that works out for him over the next 10 months.

The Democrat in this race will be Cheri Beasley. Here is her introductory video:

On the issues, Beasley aligns perfectly with the majority of Democrats who are neither leftist nor centrist.  She supports expanding Obamacare, investing in efforts to mitigate climate change, ensuring voting rights, extending the child tax credit, enacting criminal justice reform, finally passing comprehensive immigration reform, protecting women's reproductive rights, and implementing common sense gun safety measures.

But, you might ask, is she electable in a state like North Carolina? In 2014, Beasley won a state-wide race for a seat on the Supreme Court. After being appointed as the Chief Justice in 2019, she ran a state-wide race for that position in 2020. Out of over 5 million votes cast, she lost by 401. But here's what was interesting about that: she won more votes than either Biden or Tillis. 

Cook Political Report and RealClearPolitics currently rate this race a toss-up, while Sabato's Crystal Ball has it leaning Republican. There are those who are suggesting that this might be the most expensive Senate race in the 2022 midterms. What we know about Rep. Budd is that he has always garnered major support from groups like the Club for Growth, which plans to invest $10 million in his campaign. However, I actually think that Beasley has a shot. But she's going to need grassroots support to get it done.

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