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North Carolina Democrat Jeff Jackson drops out of Senate race

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North Carolina state Sen. Jeff Jackson (D) dropped out of the state’s marquee Senate race Thursday, paving the way for former state Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley to solidify her standing as the Democratic primary field’s front-runner.

In a video explaining his decision, Jackson pointed to Beasley’s consistent polling lead and said he sought to avoid a divisive primary process. He also endorsed Beasley, handing her an extra boost on her expected path to the nomination.

“Now it’s time to take a hard look at what staying in this race would mean,” he said. “Cheri Beasley is consistently leading in the polls. She has also served this state honorably for over two decades and has always fought on the side of justice. I’ve also gotten to know her personally, and I can tell you, she’s wonderful. She’s been genuinely kind to me and my family, and at no point have she and I engaged in attacks against each other.”

“Cheri Beasley will be a great U.S. senator for North Carolina. So today, I will be her first endorsement as our party’s presumptive nominee. We have to come together right now. We all saw what happened in the election in Virginia last month. We are headed into a tough one,” he added, referencing Democrats’ loss in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. “A costly and divisive primary will sink this whole thing. We need to unite right now, and we need to unite behind Cheri.”

Jackson, who has served in the state Senate since 2014, had been considered a top-tier candidate in the primary with the potential to appeal to suburban voters. He had launched a campaign blitz since starting his bid in January, traveling to all of North Carolina’s 100 counties and maintaining an expansive social media presence.

But Beasley boasted an impressive résumé of running and winning statewide to the state appellate court and Supreme Court and later being appointed to serve on the high court’s top spot. And she would make history as the first Black woman to represent North Carolina in the Senate.

Beasley also recently nabbed endorsements from Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) and David Price (D-N.C.).

“Senator Jackson brought attention to the issues important to so many North Carolinians, and I know he will continue to do meaningful work in the state Senate. I’m grateful to have his support in this race,” Beasley said in a statement.

Former state Sen. Erica Smith, who ran in the 2020 Democratic Senate primary in North Carolina, also recently dropped out of the race and backed Beasley.

Business owner Tobias LaGrone and former Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton are also running in the Democratic primary, but neither has the platform that Beasley boasts.

“I commend Senator Jackson and his team on an admirable and hard-fought campaign and am grateful for his voice in the primary. As we look forward to 2022, North Carolina Democrats stand strong, unified, and ready to take on whichever Republican emerges from the battle on the other side,” said North Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman Bobbie Richardson.

The North Carolina Senate race to replace retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R) is a lynchpin of both parties’ strategies to control the upper chamber. Keeping it in GOP hands is a crucial part of the party’s plan to retake Senate control, but flipping the seat would help ease Democrats’ path to retaining their majority.

The GOP is in the midst of a divisive primary fight between former Gov. Pat McCrory, former Rep. Mark Walker and Rep. Ted Budd, who is running with former President Trump’s endorsement.

Still, Democrats have enjoyed little success in recent Senate races in North Carolina, most recently losing a race in 2020 against Sen. Thom Tillis (R) after Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham became embroiled in a scandal over an extramarital affair.

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the North Carolina Senate race as a toss-up.

Tags Cheri Beasley David Price Donald Trump G.K. Butterfield Jeff Jackson Mark Walker North Carolina Pat McCrory Richard Burr Ted Budd Thom Tillis United States Senate election in North Carolina

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