Ex-judge Cheri Beasley to run for U.S. Senate, advisers say

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 19, 2021

RALEIGH (AP) — Coming off a narrow election defeat in 2020, North Carolina’s first Black woman to serve as chief justice on the state Supreme Court will soon enter the 2022 U.S. Senate race, two advisers familiar with her deliberations said Thursday.

Democrat Cheri Beasley, who lost her chief justice election bid by just 401 votes out of nearly 5.4 million ballots cast in the statewide contest, will be announcing her intentions to run in early April, the advisers said. Beasley will join a growing field of Democratic candidates looking to fill an open seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Richard Burr.

Beasley began considering the Senate bid after her November loss and has since assembled a small team to assess her chances.

Kara Hollingsworth, a close friend of Beasley’s who works as a North Carolina-based political consultant and managed Beasley’s first statewide campaign in 2008, said she spoke with Beasley on the phone Wednesday. She said Beasley will declare her candidacy next month.

“She’s in the process of putting together a team, and I feel comfortable confirming that she’s in for this race,” Hollingsworth said.

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.

The news of Beasley’s planned entry was first reported by the Raleigh News & Observer on Thursday afternoon, though other outlets have previously noted her interest in a possible run.

Beasley will enter the race with a clear advantage, having been the only contender 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 Latinx leaders and individuals who will 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 Biden’s vice president, there are currently no Black women senators. Former state Sen. Erica Smith has entered the 2022 Democratic primary and is also looking to change that. 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 to run.

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, and former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has previously expressed interest in filling Burr’s seat.