The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) endorsed former state Sen. Cal Cunningham in North Carolina's 2020 Senate race against incumbent Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair GOP rallies around Manchin, Sinema Advocates frustrated by shrinking legal migration under Biden MORE (R).
Cunningham, an Iraq War veteran, launched his campaign in June and faces a primary field that consists of state Sen. Erica Smith, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller and doctor Atul Goel.
“Over his years of service to our country and to North Carolina, Cal Cunningham has shown he has the independence and strength to stand up to the powerful and fight for what’s right, which is exactly what he’ll do in the U.S. Senate,” Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democratic incumbents bolster fundraising advantage in key Senate races Warnock raises .5 million in third quarter MORE (D-Nev.), the DSCC chairwoman, said in a statement Thursday.
“Cal has built an impressive campaign rooted in North Carolina and has earned support from leaders across the state who trust Cal will take on the political corruption that is blocking progress on so many critical issues, from health care and prescription drug costs to a broken campaign finance system,” she added.
The DSCC’s backing is expected to give a boost to Cunningham, who has garnered endorsements from 140 leaders and activists in North Carolina.
“I’m incredibly proud of the coalition we’re building across North Carolina, county by county, as we travel the state, and I’m grateful that folks across the country are recognizing that momentum as well,” Cunningham said Thursday after receiving the DSCC endorsement. “Together, we’re going to beat Thom Tillis and move North Carolina forward.”
Tillis's campaign expressed confidence Thursday that Cunningham would be defeated in the general election, seeking to tie the Democrat with progressive policies being advocated by some on Capitol Hill.
"Cal Cunningham has proven to be a rubber stamp for the radical liberal agenda. His obsession with impeachment, support for sanctuary cities, inability to oppose a government takeover of our economy and taxpayer-funded health care for illegal immigrants are all reasons why Cal Cunningham is out of step with North Carolinians, and why Senator Tillis will be re-elected," Andrew Romeo, a Tillis campaign spokesman, told The Hill.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) also panned Cunningham after the endorsement.
“[W]ith this endorsement he will have nowhere left to hide from his Party’s toxic socialist agenda," said NRSC spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez in a statement. "That this endorsement comes only after Cunningham backed sanctuary cities, health care for undocumented immigrants, and impeaching the President surprises absolutely no one."
Cunningham raised $1 million in the third quarter of 2019 and had $1.1 million cash on hand. Tillis, meanwhile, raised $1.9 million and finished the same three-month time period with $4.4 million cash on hand.
Tillis is seen as one of the more vulnerable Senate Republicans, with polling indicating an underwater approval rating that's making Democrats hopeful they can make gains in a state former President Obama won in 2008 but Democrats lost in 2012 and 2016.
Tillis is also facing a primary challenge from Garland Tucker, a wealthy, retired businessman who has already pumped at least $700,000 of his own money into the campaign. The incumbent faced backlash from Republicans earlier this year after he initially said he would support a resolution condemning President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE’s emergency declaration at the U.S. southern border. He later reversed course and opposed the measure.
Last month, Tillis announced a $2.2 million television and radio ad buy for ads that are set to run until the March 3 primary.
On the endorsement front, Tillis got a boost in June when Trump backed him.
The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the general election as “lean” Republican.
Updated at 5:07 p.m.