Beasley finally joins crowded 2022 Democratic Senate primary field

Former North Carolina Supreme Court chief justice Cheri Beasley speaks at a luncheon in this file photo.

RALEIGH — Former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley formally declared her bid for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination, joining several other Democrats in the race to fill the open seat.

“For too many families across North Carolina, the doors of opportunity have been closed. They’ve been left behind and ignored for too long,” Beasley said in a video message. “I’m running for Senate because it’s time for that to change.”

Beasley enters the race leading recent polling conducted by Cardinal Point Analytics.

In a poll of 250 Democratic voters taken last week, Beasley led state Sen. Jeff Jackson 32% to 26%.

Just two black women have served in the Senate, and with Kamala Harris’s departure to become Joe Biden’s vice president, there are currently no black women senators. Beasley is looking to change that.

“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 in her video. “As we come out of this pandemic, now more than ever, that needs to end.”

Beasley enters the race with strong name recognition as a former judge elected to statewide office. She was elected to the N.C. Court of Appeals in 2008 and as an associate justice on the state Supreme Court in 2014.

Gov. Roy Cooper named her chief justice in 2019, passing over the more senior associate justice, Republican Paul Newby. Beasley lost the chief justice race in 2020 to Newby by 401 votes.

Despite her past electoral successes, Beasley faces a challenge in Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson, a progressive white male candidate who raised nearly $1.3 million between the time he entered the race in late January and the end of March. Jackson has a much wider social media following, can generate attention through his work in state government and has been campaigning on a tour of all 100 counties.

Former state Sen. Erica Smith, who unsuccessfully sought the 2020 Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, is trying again to pull off a victory. Virologist Richard Watkins and Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton are also seeking the Democratic nod. Joan Higginbotham, another black female, is still considering a run. She is a retired NASA astronaut and the wife of longtime Charlotte City Councilman James “Smuggie” Mitchell.

The Associated Press contributed to this report