Ex-state senator in North Carolina enters race against Tillis

Ex-state senator in North Carolina enters race against Tillis
© Greg Nash

Former North Carolina state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D) announced on Monday that he will challenge Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Energy: Trump officials finalize plan to open up protected areas of Tongass to logging | Feds say offshore testing for oil can proceed despite drilling moratorium | Dems question EPA's postponement of inequality training On The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami Feds say offshore testing for oil can proceed despite drilling moratorium MORE (R-N.C.) for his seat in 2020. 

Cunningham, a veteran of the Iraq War who served as an Army prosecutor, is the third Democrat to enter the race against Tillis, who also faces a GOP primary challenge.

ADVERTISEMENT

Tillis is seen as one of the more vulnerable Republicans in the Senate, as Democrats are hopeful their presidential candidate could win the Tarheel State. 

Former President Obama in 2008 is the only Democrat to recently win the state in a presidential election, and he was defeated there four years later.

Cunningham is leaving a more crowded race for lieutenant governor to join the Senate race. He previously ran in 2010 for the U.S. Senate, finishing second in the Democratic primary. He received support in that race from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. 

In his announcement video, Cunningham said he would fight for an economy that worked "for everybody, for the health care that each family deserves, and to reform the corrupt political system in Washington."

He cast his decision to change races as one motivated by a desire to effect positive change in people's lives, saying people on the campaign trail had asked him about entering the Senate race, according to The Associated Press

Cunningham joins North Carolina state Sen. Erica Smith and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller in the Senate race. 

Tillis's campaign responded to Cunningham's challenge, calling him Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' 3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Cruz blocks amended resolution honoring Ginsburg over language about her dying wish MORE's (D-N.Y.) "handpicked candidate." 

"Out of touch liberal Cal Cunningham enters this race by abandoning his previous commitment and demonstrating his total inability to say ‘no’ to Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' 3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Cruz blocks amended resolution honoring Ginsburg over language about her dying wish MORE," Tillis campaign manager Luke Blanchat said in a statement on Monday. 

Tillis, who has been a staunch supporter of President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE, is likely to have heavy financial support from national Republicans in the race.

The GOP holds a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Republican lawyers brush off Trump's election comments MORE (R-Ky.) is determined to retain it in 2020.

Tillis recently dodged a primary challenge from Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) after the congressman decided against the move.