Former North Carolina chief justice launches Senate campaign

Former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley (D) launched her campaign for the Tarheel State’s open Senate seat Tuesday. 

In an announcement video, Beasley touted her legal career, stretching from her start as a public defender to her historic appointment in 2019 as the first Black woman to serve as chief justice of the state’s highest court.

Beasley cast herself as a fighter for a slate of Democratic priorities, referencing health care and affordable education as issues she plans on tackling should she serve in the Senate. 

“For too many families across North Carolina, the doors of opportunity have been closed. They’ve been left behind and ignored for too long. I’m running for Senate because it’s time for that to change. Whether it’s health care, education, the ability to find work that supports a family or retire with dignity, too often Washington only responds to the well-connected,” she said. “And as we come out of this pandemic, now more than ever, that needs to end.”

Beasley, 55, had been laying the groundwork to launch a campaign for the Senate seat that will be vacated by Sen. Richard Burr (R).

Her campaign marks her third statewide bid.

After she was appointed to North Carolina’s Supreme Court in 2012, she won a full term for the court seat in 2014 before her 2019 appointment to helm the court.

She then lost one of the tightest races in the 2020 cycle when she was ousted by Republican Paul Newby by 401 votes. 

“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,” Conen Morgan, a North Carolina Democratic strategist, told The Hill last month.

Beasley, who is Black, would make history should she ultimately win Burr’s seat. 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.

She is joining what could ultimately be a crowded primary field. Former state Sen. Erica Smith, state Sen. Jeff Jackson and virologist Richard Watkins have already jumped into the Democratic primary, but that field is expected to grow. 

Rep. Mark Walker and former Gov. Pat McCrory are running for the Republicans, and Lara Trump, daughter-in-law of former President Trump, is reportedly weighing a bid of her own.

The Tarheel State has tilted Republicans’ way in presidential and Senate races in recent cycles, but the race for Burr’s seat is expected to be hotly contested by both parties next year. President Biden lost the state by 1.3 percentage points in November, and Sen. Thom Tillis (R) won reelection by under 2 points in what was at the time the most expensive Senate race in U.S. history.

Winning the North Carolina Senate race would be a huge boon to Democrats, who are looking to protect or expand their current 50-50 majority in the upper chamber.

Tags Cheri Beasley Donald Trump Joe Biden Lara Trump Mark Walker North Carolina Pat McCrory Richard Burr Thom Tillis

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