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Jeff Jackson drops out of Senate race

 Jeff Jackson speaks to a crowd at a campaign stop in New Hanover County in March.
Jeff Jackson speaks to a crowd at a campaign stop in New Hanover County in March.

Mecklenburg state Sen. Jeff Jackson dropped out of the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate Thursday morning and endorsed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.

“Now it’s time to take a hard look at what staying in this race would mean,” Jackson said in a video posted to Twitter. “Cheri Beasley is consistently leading in the polls. She has also served this state honorably for over two decades and has always fought on the side of justice.”

Jackson ran a more energetic campaign than Beasley, embarking on a tour of all 100 North Carolina counties and drawing large enthusiastic crowds.

But Democratic party leaders had quickly coalesced behind Beasley after she entered the race last April. She received the endorsement of Washington D.C. groups like Emily’s List, but also local Democrats, including some of Jackson’s colleagues in the Mecklenburg legislative delegation.

Beasley was the first African American chief justice of the state Supreme Court. If she wins in November, she would become the state’s first Black U.S. Senator.

Jackson’s path to victory narrowed last month when former State Sen. Erica Smith dropped out of the race and endorsed Beasley. With only two high-profile candidates in the race, Beasley’s advantage appeared to grow. Beasley’s campaign released a poll showing her ahead by 14 percentage points over Jackson, with that margin growing when voters learned more about the candidates.

There are two other Democrats in the race: Durham virologist Richard Watkins and Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton.

The state’s primary was scheduled for March but the state Supreme Court postponed it until May so a lower court could hear arguments as to whether the state’s new congressional and legislative maps are constitutional.

While Beasley is now heavily favored to win the primary, she faces a tough road in November against whoever wins the Republican primary - either former governor Pat McCrory or Rep. Ted Budd. Polling nationwide has shown Democrats trailing Republicans ahead of the midterm elections.

Copyright 2021 WFAE