NC Sen. Jeff Jackson enters US Senate race

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 27, 2021

By Gary D. Robertson

Associated Press

RALEIGH — A North Carolina state senator announced Tuesday that he’s running for the U.S. Senate in 2022, hoping to flip fortunes for Democrats from his state to serve in the chamber after a string of defeats.

Jeff Jackson, a Charlotte business attorney, Afghan war veteran and National Guard soldier, unveiled his bid, saying he is committed to “honesty and decency” in politics and helping working people and working families.

Jackson, 38, is the second high-profile Democrat to enter the race to succeed three-term Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who is not seeking reelection. Erica Smith, a former state senator who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2020 and to challenge Republican incumbent Thom Tillis, is in again.

Tillis ultimately narrowly defeated Democrat Cal Cunningham in November. Those two campaigns and outside groups spent $287 million combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That was a record before the two Georgia Senate elections that went to Jan. 5 runoffs swamped that total.

In contrast with North Carolina’s hyper-nationalized Senate race in 2020, Jackson said he’ll attempt to turn his campaign inward by pledging to visit all 100 counties as the coronavirus pandemic has subsided. He said he’ll hold town halls in each to “build an agenda that’s actually tailored to our state, not an agenda that’s imported from D.C. or from donors.”

In a campaign announcement video  featuring his wife and three young children, Jackson said voters want a different approach to win their support.

“The idea is just to do a good job and this is what a good job would look like,” Jackson told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “The idea is not to run a super clever political campaign. The idea is just to be very straightforward and surprise people by how real it is.”

North Carolina Republicans have now won four consecutive Senate races dating to 2010. Cunningham’s bid for U.S. Senate was derailed in the campaign’s final weeks by his acknowledgment of a recent extramarital affair. But Democrats nationally are heartened by victories elsewhere, capped by both Georgia wins. That caused a 50-50 split in the chamber that gave Democrats control because Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, breaks ties.

Other Democrats are weighing whether to enter the contest, which will still require massive fundraising even in the coming months to gain the attention of voters in the March 2022 primaries. Jackson, who sat next to Smith on the state Senate floor the past two years, said he considers her a friend and would endorse her immediately if she won the primary.

On the Republican side, former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro announced he’s running last month. North Carolina native Lara Trump, the daughter-in-law of former President Donald Trump, is also considering a bid.