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 TillisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats worry about diversity on next debate stage North Carolina congressman says he won't seek reelection after redistricting Overnight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP MORE," Tillis campaign manager Luke Blanchat said in a statement on Monday. 

Tillis, who has been a staunch supporter of President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax 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 McConnellBiden: 'No party should have too much power' Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills 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.