Former Chief Justice Cheri Beasley plans US Senate run

FILE - In this May 15, 2019, file photo, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley tours Tryon Palace with members of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, in New Bern, N.C. Former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Beasley will soon announce her plan to run for U.S. Senate in North Carolina. Advisers close to her say she'll enter the race in early April 2021. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP, File)

RALEIGH — Former Democratic N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is planning to announce a campaign for U.S. Senate in 2022.

First reported by McClatchy, a source said she was expected to announce her candidacy in early April. Beasley was the first black woman to serve as chief justice on the state Supreme Court.

“She’s putting a team together, is planning to announce, and I think we’ll see that in early April,” said Kara Hollingsworth, a Cary-based political consultant who has worked on previous Beasley campaigns, on Thursday, according to the report.

Beasley lost one of the closest statewide elections in history in 2020 to Republican Chief Justice Paul Newby. Despite heavily outspending Newby, Beasley lost the seat by 401 votes.

Beasley conceded the race over a month after the November 2020 election following two recounts in the race.

Following her departure from the court, she became a partner in the Raleigh office of McGuireWoods.

Beasley will join a growing field of Democratic candidates looking to fill an open seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Richard Burr.

Conen Morgan, a Raleigh-based political consultant, said he has lent a helping hand to Beasley as a political operation develops, though he has no official paid role. He has a personal friendship with Beasley, confirmed the April timeframe and said he has spoken with Beasley’s friends and family about the prospective run.

“Chief Justice Beasley has the intent of putting together her team in early April and she has taken the necessary time to assess the landscape and looks forward toward the opportunity to better serve the people of North Carolina,” Morgan said.

Beasley will enter the primary with a clear advantage, having been the only Democrat in the race ever elected to statewide office. Beasley won an appellate court race in 2008, was appointed as an associate justice to the state Supreme Court in 2012 and retained that seat after a successful 2014 election. Gov. Roy Cooper named her as chief justice in 2019.

Irene Godínez, founder and executive director of Poder North Carolina Action, works to elect Latino leaders and individuals who will support racial minorities, gay rights and access to abortions. State and federal campaign finance filings show the group spent more than $372,000 in the previous election cycle in support of Democrats, including Beasley, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and unsuccessful Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham.

Godínez plans to support Beasley’s candidacy and believes the former chief justice will have a financial and competitive edge over the Democrats she’s looking to beat.

“She’s already proven to North Carolinians that she is guided by her values and convictions of equity,” Godínez said. “When I think of the role that she held previously, she won that statewide race, and last time, got super close to winning. She’s clearly a really proficient fundraiser.”

Just two black women have ever served in the U.S. Senate. With California Sen. Kamala Harris’s departure from the chamber to become vice president. Former state Sen. Erica Smith, who lost to 2020 nominee Cal Cunningham, already has announced a run; and Joan Higginbotham, the third black woman to go into space, is considering entering the race. A group that works to support candidates with science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds is pushing her potential candidacy.

State Sen. Jeff Jackson and virologist Richard Watkins are also seeking the Democratic nomination.

Former GOP Congressman Mark Walker is the only declared candidate presently competing for the Republican nomination. Lara Trump, former President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, is mulling a run; former Gov. Pat McCrory has previously expressed interest in filling Burr’s seat; and three-term U.S. Rep Ted Budd is also considering a run.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.