Field notes from the North Carolina U.S. Senate campaign — Vol. 5

So many candidates

The cast of characters in the U.S. Senate race grew over North Carolina’s second candidate filing period, but the plot hasn’t changed.

After being halted by a court ruling in redistricting lawsuits last December, filing restarted February 24 and closed at noon Friday.
Although there were some surprises in congressional and state legislative races, the direction of U.S. Senate primaries remains unchanged. Marjorie Eastman and Mark Walker filed Wednesday and Thursday respectively, joining Pat McCrory and Ted Budd in the top tier of the GOP’s 14 candidates.

Cheri Beasley’s main challengers dropped out of the race last year and although she is one of 11 Democrats, she has effectively cleared the field.

Shannon Bray of Apex is the lone Libertarian in the race and already headed for the fall ballot.

The order of names on the ballot were determined Friday by the State Board of Elections in accordance with a state law requiring a random selection, which means, in the words of the official release, “The order was determined by selecting a ball out of a bingo machine, with the letter on the ball corresponding with the first letter of the candidate’s last name.”

Yes, there’s a video.

Here’s the list (towns are from filings):

Democrats: James L. Carr, Jr. (Harrisburg); Robert Colon (Wilmington); Alyssia Rose-Katherine Hammond (Raleigh); Constance (Lov) Johnson (Charlotte); Tobias LaGrone (Greensboro); B. K. Maginnis (Charlotte); Rett Newton (Beaufort); Marcus W. Williams (Lumberton); Greg Antoine (Fayetteville); Cheri Beasley (Raleigh) and; Chrelle Booker (Columbus).

Republicans: Marjorie K. Eastman (Wake Forest); David Flaherty (Cameron); Benjamin E. Griffiths (Cleveland); Kenneth Harper, Jr. (Archdale); Pat McCrory (Charlotte); Charles Kenneth Moss (Randleman); Lichia Sibhatu (Raleigh); Debora Tshiovo (Moravian Falls); Mark Walker (Summerfield); Jen Banwart (Holly Springs); Ms. Lee A. Brian (Clayton); Leonard L. Bryant (Fayetteville); Ted Budd (Raleigh) and; Drew Bulecza (Lincolnton).

If you’re wondering if that’s a lot of candidates, it is.

Key dates & deadlines

  • Absentee ballot requests for the May 17 primary are open until 5 p.m. Tuesday (March 10). Ballots must be returned by 5 p.m. Election Day (May 17). Click here for information on voting by mail.
  • Voter registration deadline for the primary is 5 p.m. Friday April 22. Click here to check your registration.
  • North Carolina’s 17 day early voting period runs from April 17 to May 14. Eligible voters can also register in person and vote at the sites. Click here for more information on voting early in-person and here to look up lookup early voting sites in any county.


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

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

Field notes: Dispatches from the 2022 U.S. Senate election – Vol. 3

The wheels are turning toward a May 17 primary as court cases play out in what has already been a confusing year for voters trying to follow the calendar changes.

This week, the state Board of Elections reopened its absentee ballot request portal and candidate filing, halted in late December by a court ruling, is scheduled to restart in less than two weeks. But the schedule is still subject to the outcome of redistricting cases and the legal roller coaster ride through the end of the month and possibly beyond.

The uncertainty and the extended schedule continues to have an effect on U.S. Senate campaigns, especially the now four-way race for the GOP nomination and when voters will get a chance to see the all on stage at once.

The John Locke Foundation announced that is had confirmations for its debate in late February from former Governor Pat McCrory, former Rep. Mark Walker and Majorie Eastman, a Cary author and retired Army officer, who joined the race late last year. A no-show so far is Rep. Ted Budd, the GOP’s top fundraiser in the last cycle, who has resisted calls to debate saying it is too early given the extended schedule.

Budd’s reluctance has given Walker and McCrory more fuel for their efforts to paint Budd as unwilling to go face to face.

The debate takes place at the end of the “Carolina Liberty Conference” on February 26 in Raleigh from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Cheri Beasley

Beasley at Livingstone

Democrat Cheri Beasley, received the president’s award when she addressed a virtual Founder’s Day commemoration at Livingstone College this week. Beasley, the former Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, was hailed as an “inspiration and a trailblazer” by the school’s longtime leader, Dr. Jimmy Jenkins, Sr.

In her remarks, Beasley pointed to the latest attempts in states to roll back voting and the lack of action in the U.S. Senate on voting rights legislation and urged students to stay involved.

“It’s never been more important,” she said. “In 49 states across this nation, including North Carolina, there is work to disenfranchise voters, as senators stay quiet instead of speaking up to protect our constitutional rights.”

Beasley noted the difficult and oppressive times times during the school’s beginnings in the late 1870s and told students not to lose faith.

“Keep on going we need you,” she said. “Always vote and be engaged.”


No politician likes to be accused of waffling, but Mark Walker took it to another level in the February 3 tweet of an evening meal at Waffle House.

The since deleted tweet was intended to show Walker’s non-elite bona fides, but instead touched off a barrage of critiques of his order, which included home fries that were very obviously neither covered nor smothered.

Before deleting the tweet, Walker engaged in a friendly exchange with WRAL reporter Travis Fain, one of several subject area experts on hash browns to question his order.

Walker served up an apology the next day with a side of ham.


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

Field Notes — It’s raining numbers

This was another big numbers week in the race for U.S. Senate and it proved to be every bit the usual Rorschach Test as #ncpol sifted through the end-of-year campaign reports.

Cheri Beasley

Statements were made, triumphs underlined, memes posted and, fairly quickly, two main takeaways from the totals emerged: 1. No one is running away with the GOP primary and; 2. A cleared field in the Democratic primary did about what you’d expect in the way of fundraising for former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.

Beasley continues to lead all candidates in total money raised and continues to build her war chest, taking in more than $2.1 million in the fourth quarter as her main rivals, former state Sens. Jeff Jackson and Erica Smith, dropped out of the race.

On the GOP side, the fundraising challenge for all campaigns is adjusting to the change in the election cycle from a quick sprint to March 8 to a longer grind toward May 17.

The end of year totals show Rep. Ted Budd, picking up momentum in the fourth quarter, outraising former Gov. Pat McCrory for the first time, during a period when it looked like the primary would settle into a race between the two of them.

This week, the Budd campaign sought to underlined the momentum, announcing it took in more than $400,000 in January, its biggest monthly haul.

Although the end of year numbers show Budd and McCrory have raised far more than the rest of the GOP field, the dynamics of the race took a sharp turn last week when former congressman Mark Walker announced he was staying in.

Walker’s fundraising report shows a drop in contributions in the fourth quarter, when he considered shifting to a congressional run. That would have put him at a distant third  for the quarter were it not for Marjorie Eastman who took in just over $423,000 since joining the race in early October.

Based on those numbers, Eastman has been making the case that the primary is now a four-way contest.

In addition to her direct fundraising, she also has the backing of Restore Common Sense, a PAC set up in November by GOP megadonor Fred Eshelman that’s spent more than $1.2 million on billboards and social media ads backing Eastman. End of year filing for the PAC lists Eshelman as its sole contributor, making two donations totaling $1,750,000.

Left to right: Pat McCrory, Ted Budd, Mark Walker and Majorie Eastman 

Here’s the fundraising breakdown for each candidate:

  • Cheri Beasley raised $2,145,602 in the fourth quarter. She ended 2021 with $4,931728 raised , $2,110,958 spent and $2,820,769 cash on hand.
  • Ted Budd raised $968,360 in the fourth quarter. He ended 2021 with $3,112,599 raised, $2,037,096 spent and $2,226,866 cash on hand
  • Pat McCrory raised $748,072 in the fourth quarter. He ended 2021 with 3028635 raised, $1,077,300 spent and has $1,949,198 cash on hand
  • Majorie Eastman raised $423,273 after joining the race in the fourth quarter. She has spent $136,762 and has $286,511 cash on hand
  • Mark Walker raised $146,053 in the fourth quarter. He ended 2021 with $1,577,595 raised, $1,835,873 spent and $571,737 cash on hand
  • Jeff Jackson raised $469,702 in the fourth quarter. He ended 2021 with $3,383,977 raised, $2,553,159 spent and has $830,817 cash on hand.
  • Erica Smith ended 2021 with $604,976 raised, $527,645 spent and has $97,378 cash on hand.

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

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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