The 2020 election results were barely finalized by the time the 2022 U.S. Senate race in North Carolina started heating up.
The race will be closely watched nationwide since North Carolina is a perennial swing state. Even though 2020 saw Republican Sen. Thom Tillis reelected and Donald Trump come out on top in North Carolina, Democratic Gov Roy Cooper won reelection.
Adding to the buzz in North Carolina: There won’t be an incumbent on the ballot. GOP Sen. Richard Burr is retiring, leading to a wide-open primary not just for Democrats but Republicans.
Formal filing hasn’t yet begun, but here are the folks who’ve already thrown their hats into the ring.
Cheri Beasley is the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court -- and the first Black woman to hold the job. The longtime jurist was previously an associate justice and also served on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Beasley, who was appointed to the chief justice bench by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in 2019, narrowly lost a race to keep the job in 2020 to Republican Paul Newby. Beasley announced her bid in April 2021.
Jeff Jackson is a state senator from Charlotte whose profile has risen in recent years, especially through updates he provided during the coronavirus crisis. The attorney and Army National Guard member has been in the state Senate since 2014. He had planned on running for the U.S. Senate in 2020 but ultimately decided against it. Jackson announced his new bid in January 2021.
Rett Newton is the mayor of Beaufort, on North Carolina’s coast. The retired Air Force officer told the News & Observer that he was inspired to run for higher office after seeing the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, calling it a “domestic terror attack in the house of our democracy.” He announced his bid in April 2021.
Erica Smith is a former state senator who represented the coastal District 3 in Raleigh from 2015 to early 2021. This is Smith’s second bid for the U.S. Senate. In 2020, she came in second in the Democratic primary to Cal Cunningham, who went on to lose to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis in November. Smith announced her bid in January 2021.
Richard Watkins of Durham is a scientist who got his Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from UNC Chapel Hill. The CEO and founder of the Science Policy Action Network Inc. hasn’t held public office before, but ran unsuccessfully in the 2018 Democratic primary for North Carolina’s 4th Congressional District. Watkins told the News & Observer that “people are expecting science to lead,” especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. He announced his bid in March 2021.
U.S. Rep. Ted Budd is a member of Congress who has represented North Carolina’s 13th District since 2017. The district includes Rowan County in the Charlotte metro area. Budd’s campaign is expected to focus on immigration, religious liberty and the economy. He announced his bid in April 2021.
Pat McCrory was North Carolina’s governor from 2012-2016 and Charlotte’s mayor from 1995-2009. He’s the longest-serving mayor in the Queen City’s history. After narrowly losing his 2016 reelection bid to Democrat Roy Cooper, McCrory returned to Charlotte and began hosting a political talk show on WBT radio. A major factor in his 2016 loss was H.B. 2, known across the country as “the bathroom bill, which he signed into law. The law, among other things, required people in public buildings to use bathrooms that corresponded with the sex on their birth certificates and caused widespread backlash. He announced his bid in April 2021.
Mark Walker is a former congressman who represented North Carolina’s 6th U.S. House District from 2015-2021. The district includes the Triad cities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point. The former pastor decided not to run for reelection to the House in 2020. He had previously considered challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis in the 2020 primary but backed out after former President Trump endorsed Tillis. Walker announced his bid in December 2020.
We’ll update this story as more people announce bids.
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