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 TillisGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization Without major changes, more Americans could be victims of online crime How to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) 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.

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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 SchumerBiden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden 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 SchumerBiden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden MORE," Tillis campaign manager Luke Blanchat said in a statement on Monday. 

Tillis, who has been a staunch supporter of President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal 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 McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees 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.