Notes on the #NCSEN Democrats

by | Oct 11, 2021 | Politics | 6 comments

Last week saw quarterly fundraising reports come out for Democratic candidates Jeff Jackson and Cheri Beasley. Jackson was first out of the gate, announcing that he had hauled in $900,000. Beasley took a few more days to release her money report, but when it came out, she had blown Jackson away with $1.5 million. Beasley has now almost caught up to Jackson in cumulative fundraising despite her opponent enjoying a one-quarter head start.

One of the most astute political observers in the state, Dr. Michael Bitzer of Catawba College, adjudged Beasley’s fundraising as evidence that she is the frontrunner in the race. This conclusion is hard to argue with. The former state Chief Justice has outpaced her opponent by a wide margin two quarters in a row, and has advantages beyond fundraising. Much of the Democratic establishment has backed Beasely; she has a much stronger resume than Jackson, and she brings a diversity to the ticket that he does not. While Jackson is making a strong effort, he clearly has an uphill climb to pull off an upset.

But Jackson’s campaign is not a hopeless cause. Nine hundred thousand dollars is a healthy number for a candidate running second in his primary–which shows, given that Beasley raised so much more, the downsides of being an underdog. Jackson claims that most of his fundraising has come from small-dollar donors. This speaks to his core strength as a candidate with enthusiastic backing from political activists.

The key question for Jeff Jackson is who, exactly, are the activists powering his campaign. He represented a prosperous, white-collar district in the state Senate and most of the ardor for his campaign seems to emanate from young, white liberals. That’s not enough to win a primary in North Carolina. Forty-two percent of registered Democrats in the state are African American and many others are blue-collar, moderate Dems. Jackson likes to present himself as an heir to Beto O’Rourke. The danger is that he’s more like Eugene McCarthy or Paul Tsongas, an urban social liberal who can’t win over the party’s “Beer Track” majority.

Beasley has a direct route to solidifying African American support. She should also run well among feminist women seeking representation in the United States Senate. While her campaign has operated a bit below the radar, she is amassing the funds necessary to run a modern, statewide campaign. Polling also shows that she is highly regarded across the state, and she managed to run ahead of Joe Biden in both rural areas and majority-minority urban precincts the last time she was on the ballot. That should throw into question who is the kind of candidate to appeal to voters in conservative rural districts. For years, Democratic mandarins have thought rural areas wanted white-male candidates tinged with conservatism. Both Barack Obama and Cheri Beasley show that’s not necessarily true.

Several months ago I reflected that this primary is shaping up well for the Democratic Party. Quarter-three’s fundraising reports confirm that hunch. While Beasley is running far ahead of Jackson, both are raising the sums necessary for viable campaigns. There does not appear to be the “donor fatigue” about which some commentators worried when Jackson made his early announcement. Democrats may not win this election at the end of the day, but at a time when the national party is in a panic the state party should feel like it’s in a little less of a crisis.


  1. Rev. Wanda Hunt

    Both are exceptional candidates.

  2. bremerjennifer

    I find myself torn over who would make the better candidate in the to-and-fro of a campaign, but not over who would be the better senator. There is no doubt in my mind that, when it comes to substance, Beasley has it all over Jackson, charming though he is. Beasley has spent her life in the courts, not the legislature, but don’t kid yourself that being a judge on the state court of appeals or the supreme court (or, earlier in her career, a public defender) doesn’t involve deal-making and, yes, politics, just because a lot of it takes place behind closed doors. She probably has more experience negotiating with Republicans than Jackson does. As chief justice, she was also the top manager of the sprawling statewide judiciary and showed her leadership during the pandemic by issuing the eviction moratorium, facilitating deadline extensions, and generally keeping the courts moving forward. At a time when tackling injustice–to the poor, to working people, to immigrants, and, as always, to minorities–has emerged as an urgent priority, who better to represent us in the Senate than someone who has devoted her life to delivering justice? It’s up to us to get her across the finish line.

    • cocodog

      Here is a basic concept, Judges listen to testimony that relates to a specific case and the attorneys. They don’t listen to

      folks like us with an eye to introducing legislation. They do not maintain field offices for the express purpose of gaining information. Judges are not concerned about your opinion on how they do their jobs. An experienced legislator does. Moreover, if a judge is talking to a member of a political party I can assure you, it will not be about something we as member o the public will ever be privy. Judges do not write laws, or as Justice Black once said, we are not the legislature, you can find those folks a couple of miles across town!

  3. cocodog

    I have got to respectively disagree with you on this one. There is little doubt both Beasley and Jackson have the ability to do the job, but Jackson has by far greater experience in representing folks.

    During the nightmarish years of our last Republican governor, Jackson hung in there with tenacity and determination to address basic human rights.

    Beasley has little or experience in dealing with issues related to representing folks. Serving on NC Supreme Court may look good on a job resume for a major law firm, but it does not cut the ice in the US Congress where solid political experience and common sense are at premium. Moreover, like some members of the so called loyal opposition who stood up to Trump and his marry little band of grafters and near do wells, Jackson has what it takes to stand his ground when it comes to people of the this state.

    • Melinda

      Agree with you!

      • mark T

        agree. I will work tirelessly for Beasley if she is the Democratic nominee. In my opinion she was a very poor candidate in her Chief Justice race.

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