RALEIGH — State Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Mecklenburg) ended his campaign for U.S. Senate and made a plea for Democrats to line up behind his opponent in the race, former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.
Word first broke of the news on Dec. 15, as Washington, D.C. outlet Politico reported that Jackson was notifying donors throughout the day.
Jackson’s departure from the race gives Beasley, who lost her bid to become the elected chief justice of the state’s highest court, a much easier path to the nomination. Some political observers speculated that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and New York U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer were supporting Beasley’s campaign.
Jackson famously met with Schumer about a 2020 campaign, but said he wouldn’t spend his time in a “windowless basement” raising money for attack ads.
He instead said he if ran for the seat he would embark on a 100-county tour of the state, which he did throughout 2021. His campaign, though, would be dogged by comparisons to 2020 failed Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham. The state Republican Party often referred to Jackson as “Cal Cunningham Jr.,” noting the many similarities between the two. That led some Democratic officials to say they shouldn’t run the same type of campaign again or nominate another white male candidate.
That strategy appears to be working, with Beasley sewing up support from Jackson’s fellow Democrats in the General Assembly, multiple members of Congress, and even former rival Erica Smith.
“If you’re not unequivocally for getting rid of the filibuster, you are out of touch with the scale of the crises bearing down on BIPOC communities and working people across North Carolina and all over the country,” Smith said in September, taking a shot at Beasley’s position then of supporting the filibuster. Just two months later, however, Beasley changed course, and now supports ending the filibuster.
The state Democratic Party chair, Bobbie Richardson, said she commended Jackson and that “North Carolina Democrats stand strong, unified, and ready to take on whichever Republican emerges from the battle on the other side.”
Responding to the news, N.C. Republican Party chairman Michael Whatley said, “It says a lot that the most liberal member of the NC Senate is not progressive enough for the Democrat Party. The radical agenda pushed by AOC & the Biden administration — and embraced by Cheri Beasley — is wildly out of step with NC voters.”
State RNC spokeswoman Alex Nolley added, “Chuck Schumer has once again tried to rig the North Carolina Senate primary in favor of his handpicked choice Cheri Beasley, who will be a puppet for the Democrats’ agenda of more spending, more taxes and more crime. However, no amount of meddling will trick North Carolinians into believing Beasley will stand-up against D.C. special interests.”
Jackson began the race strong when he entered in January, but his fundraising in the campaign slowed down substantially.
He raised $1 million in the first week of the campaign, but his third-quarter fundraising reports totaled just $990,000 and showed approximately $1.1 million on hand.
With Jackson now out of the race, Gov. Roy Cooper, who elevated Beasley to the role of N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice in 2019, will formally endorse her campaign.