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Former North Carolina chief justice planning Senate run

Former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley (D) is laying the groundwork to jump into the Tarheel State’s open Senate race, which is expected to be among the most heavily contested of the 2022 midterms.

“I can tell you Chief Justice Beasley is in the process of putting together her run for early April for the United States Senate,” Conen Morgan, a North Carolina Democratic strategist familiar with the matter, told The Hill. “I’ve had conversations with folks close to her, and I can say that she’s actively taking the necessary steps to put on paper what it will look like for her run.”

A Senate bid would be the third statewide race for Beasley, who first won a seat on the state court of appeals in 2008 and was appointed to North Carolina’s Supreme Court in 2012. She won a full term for that seat in 2014 and was appointed as chief justice in 2019.

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Beasley, 55, lost one of the closest races in the 2020 cycle, when she was unseated by Republican Paul Newby by just 401 votes. She ran ahead of now-President BidenJoe BidenEx-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' News leaders deal with the post-Trump era MORE in the state by about 11,000 votes in November.

“Chief Justice Beasley has already won two statewide elections in North Carolina previously, and she was just shy on this third one. So I believe her chances are very strong. She has shown what it takes to win statewide and understands what a hard race this will be to be able to crisscross the map across the state,” Morgan said.

Beasley joins former state Sen. Erica Smith, state Sen. Jeff Jackson and virologist Richard Watkins in what could become a crowded Democratic primary to try to fill the seat being vacated by Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze Burr House Democrats to Schumer: Vote again on Jan. 6 probe Lara Trump lost her best opportunity — if she ever really wanted it Trump touts record, blasts Dems in return to stage MORE (R), who is retiring after the end of his current term. 

Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerTrump endorses Rep. Ted Budd for Senate in North Carolina 9 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022 The Hill's Morning Report - Biden to country: 'Turning peril into possibility' MORE (N.C.) has jumped into the race for the Republicans, though Lara TrumpLara TrumpClear signs Trump intends to run in 2024 Lara Trump lost her best opportunity — if she ever really wanted it Lewandowski says Trump has not spoken to him about being reinstated MORE, daughter-in-law of former President TrumpDonald TrumpEx-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Ex-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' MORE, is also reportedly mulling a bid.

Beasley, who is Black, would add a historical factor to the race. North Carolina has never elected an African American senator before, and the entire country has only ever elected two Black women to the upper chamber.

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“I am excited about how diverse this field will be to reflect the citizens of North Carolina. And it’s an exciting time to see a woman step forward to serve in this role,” Morgan said.

Beasley’s campaign moves were first reported by The News & Observer.

While Republicans won the presidential and Senate races in North Carolina in November, the state continued to serve as a battleground. Biden lost the state by just 1.3 percentage points, and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisInfighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms Lara Trump lost her best opportunity — if she ever really wanted it 9 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022 MORE (R) won reelection by under 2 points in what was at the time the most expensive Senate race in history. 

North Carolina is a lynchpin in Democrats’ strategy to keep and expand their control in the upper chamber. The party is targeting open seats there and in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator YouTube suspends Ron Johnson for 7 days GOP senators introduce bill to make Iran deal subject to Senate approval MORE (R-Wis.) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyHouse unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants Iowa governor questions lack of notice on migrant children flights to Des Moines Senate crafts Pelosi alternative on drug prices MORE (R-Iowa) have yet to announce if their run for reelection in their swing states.