U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley talks partisanship, criminal justice reform, rural communities and education with local Democrats

Published 12:05 am Sunday, April 10, 2022

SALISBURY — U.S. Senate candidate and former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley discussed education, criminal justice reform, partisanship and not overlooking rural communities during her visit with Rowan County Democrats Saturday.

Beasley joined Democrats for their monthly virtual breakfast meeting. Beasley is the presumed Democratic nominee for the 2022 Senate election but is one of 20 total candidates, with 11 of those Democrats. She made history in North Carolina in 2019 when Gov. Roy Cooper appointed her chief justice, making her the first Black woman to hold such a position. Before then, she won an eight-year term in 2014. Her resumé also includes serving as a public defender and judge.

Party chair Geoffrey Hoy referenced another historic first from last week, when Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the Senate during Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s appointment as the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Harris is also the nation’s first Black, South Asian and woman vice president.

“This is the year of strong Black women,” Hoy said.

Beasley said despite North Carolina being the ninth largest state in the nation, nearly half of North Carolinians don’t earn at least $15 an hour. She emphasized the need for good quality health care, particularly in rural communities, along with education, good-paying jobs and a strong economy. Beasley said she’s visited communities all across the state and has particularly spoken with rural voters with the understanding that issues affect them differently. She said it’s important for those communities to “get their fair share” when money is funneled to North Carolina.

The floor was open for a few questions. In response to a question about facing today’s hyper-polarization and partisanship, Beasley said she’s accustomed to working across the aisle, particularly noting her time as chief justice working with a Republican-led General Assembly on the budget.

Additionally, Beasley said voters are tired of the “petty partisanship politics” and vowed to help steer the Senate back to its job of taking care of Americans regardless of party.

“I truly believe that we’re not really as divided as people would expect us to be or wish us to be. I frankly think regardless of party affiliation, we all have the same common core values,” Beasley said. “We all care deeply about our families. We care deeply about working strong for our communities. We want a strong economy. We want good-paying jobs coming to North Carolina.” 

She added that constructive disagreement makes elected officials better.

Beasley said amidst all the partisanship, people are struggling and want the issues that affect their daily lives addressed.

“People have real challenges. And most of the people with whom I speak really care deeply about bread-and-butter issues. They’re just trying to make it day-to-day,” Beasley said. “And so that’s what people want to know that the next United States senator from North Carolina is going to fight for, who will do so and speak the truth and lead courageously in doing that.”  

The issue of addressing gun violence was brought up, which Beasley said requires consultation with public safety officials to determine how to address that issue rather than placing such power in the hands of gun lobbyists. She added that her family likes to hunt, and that they respect the laws and regulations put in place for safety in ways that don’t violate their Second Amendment rights.

On the issue of criminal justice reform, Beasley mentioned her efforts to increase substance use, mental health and veterans courts. She said more policies are needed for those who are incarcerated to re-enter into society, which requires changing “how we charge offenses.” In particular, she referenced the need to decriminalize cannabis use, which will help broaden agricultural options for farmers in North Carolina and the nation. Additionally, more funding and resources are needed for District Attorney’s offices and the court system in general.

Beasley referenced several other issues that are often politicized but affect everyone: education, climate change, clean air and water and broadband accessibility. She said it’s important to fund and support teachers and increase resources, particularly for underfunded Title I schools. Such schools are typically composed of low-income students and are supported by the federal government.

“It doesn’t matter whether or to you’re a Democrat or Republican,” Beasley said. “These are issues that impact North Carolina.” 

Beasley also referenced the hundreds of pieces of legislation across the nation that are focused on suppressing voters. She mentioned the set of maps initially passed by North Carolina’s General Assembly, which were ruled unconstitutional for gerrymandering. Gerrymandering, she said, dilutes the vote of voters in rural communities in particular.

Beasley said though the fight will be tough for Democrats, she’s never backed down from a fight “and won’t do that now.” She also noted during her remarks that she doesn’t accept any corporate PAC money and that people and voters should decide the election.

Other local candidates who will be on the ballot in the primary and general election were present, including Rowan County Sheriff candidate Carlton Killian and N.C. Senate District 33 candidate Tangela “Lucy Horne” Morgan. Due to technical difficulties, the Post was unable to hear all of the remarks from those two candidates.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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