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NC-Sen: Disgraced Bathroom Bill Ex-Gov Jumps Into Senate GOP Primary

6 min read

Some big news today out of North Carolina:

Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s career in politics is not over.

McCrory, a Republican who served one term as the state’s chief executive and 14 years as Charlotte’s mayor, has launched a campaign website announcing his run for North Carolina’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2022.

McCrory made the official announcement on his popular WBT radio show Wednesday morning. He is leaving the show.

“I’m in. I’m in. I’m going to run for the U.S. Senate because I’m simply the best for the job,” McCrory said. “Of all the candidates that are considering to run for the U.S. Senate — Republicans and Democrats — I am the best for the job, and if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t run.”

Here’s a little more info:

Several other Republicans are also weighing bids for Burr’s seat, including Rep. Ted Budd, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and Lara Trump, the daughter-in-law of former President Trump. Two Democrats have jumped into the race: state Sen. Jeff Jackson and former state Sen. Erica Smith, who unsuccessfully sought the party's Senate nomination in 2020.

McCrory served for 14 years as the mayor of Charlotte before being elected governor in 2012. He lost reelection four years later to Gov. Roy Cooper (D) by only about 10,000 votes after a bitter campaign in which McCrory found himself fending off criticism of a so-called bathroom bill that prevented local officials from expanding nondiscrimination ordinances for LGBTQ communities.

Since then, he has hosted a popular weekday morning radio show as he weighed a potential return to electoral politics. He passed on a rematch with Cooper in 2020 but said that he would consider a bid for Burr’s seat in 2022. Burr announced back in 2016 that he would retire after his term expires in January 2023.

Now McCrory in no way has this primary locked up:

Former President Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump hasn’t said whether she’ll run for retiring Sen. Richard Burr’s (R-N.C.) seat next year, but she already has an imposing presence in the race.

A poll obtained by The Hill on Tuesday shows Lara Trump with a double-digit lead over a crowded field of current and potential GOP Senate candidates in North Carolina. The survey, conducted by the GOP polling firm Cygnal, found her garnering 32.4 percent in an eight-way primary contest. She’s followed in second place by North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson at 20.1 percent.

Only two other potential candidates, former Gov. Pat McCrory and former Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, notched double-digit support in the poll, scoring 14.2 percent and 12.7 percent respectively. Former Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), the only candidate to have already announced a bid for Burr’s seat, finished fifth in the poll at 3 percent.

And here is where it gets really interesting:

The ex-governor also will have to maneuver carefully in regards to Donald Trump, who also won North Carolina’s electoral votes in 2016. Trump remains wildly popular among the GOP faithful and continues to promote unsubstantiated accusations of voter fraud during the 2020 election.

McCrory at times criticized Trump during the 2016 campaign. Walker, meanwhile, has embraced Trump, calling himself the most “pro-Trump congressman” from North Carolina when on Capitol Hill.

“With taking back the Senate majority hinging on our success in North Carolina, why would we gamble on Pat McCrory — a career politician who has lost more statewide races than he’s won?” Walker asked in a news release this week. A Lara Trump candidacy, with a likely endorsement from her father-in-law, would turn the GOP primary upside down.

McCrory's gubernatorial term was marked by working with the Republican-dominated legislature to pass a massive tax overhaul, transportation funding reform and vouchers for low-income children to attend private schools. He said his policies helped begin a “Carolina Comeback” economic recovery.

But he was blistered in the final months of his failed reelection bid for agreeing to sign the legislature's 2016 “bathroom bill,” which required transgender people to use public bathrooms aligned with the gender on their birth certificate.

McCrory defended what was known as House Bill 2, making him the face of the law among LGBT activists and the public. Several large corporations and sports leagues relocated events to other states or reconsidered expanding in North Carolina due to the law. While McCrory was praised by social conservatives when he signed HB2 and laws restricting abortion, he's a political product of the Republican Party's moderate, business-oriented wing.

Meanwhile, over on Team Blue:

North Carolina Democratic senate candidate Jeff Jackson raised nearly $1.3 million since entering the race in January, his campaign announced on Monday.

The campaign said it received contributions through the end of March from more than 14,000 people, including North Carolina residents in all but one county.

Jackson is looking to fill an open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Richard Burr. The Charlotte-area state senator plans to publicly release his first quarterly campaign finance report of the 2022 election cycle on April 15, the final day of the Federal Election Commission's deadline.

The median donation was $25, according to campaign spokesman Dylan Arant. Jackson's campaign announced 86% of the more than 20,000 contributions it received were under $100.

Personally, I’ve been liking what Jackson has been proposing:

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<div class="dk-editor-embed center-block" data-twitter-content="&lt;blockquote class="twitter-tweet"&gt;&lt;p dir="ltr" lang="en"&gt;My team and I struggled with how to even begin to write a meaningful statement about another killing of an unarmed Black man.&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;That’s a statement in and of itself.&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;We cannot allow tragedy to fade into memory without action.&lt;br&gt;&lt;br&gt;We must pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.&lt;/p&gt;— Sen. Jeff Jackson (@JeffJacksonNC) &lt;a href="https://twitter.com/JeffJacksonNC/status/1382095287121014788?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw"&gt;April 13, 2021&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/blockquote&gt;”>

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— Sen. Jeff Jackson (@JeffJacksonNC) April 13, 2021

And I’ve been loving how he’s been trashing McCrory:

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— Sen. Jeff Jackson (@JeffJacksonNC) April 14, 2021

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— Sen. Jeff Jackson (@JeffJacksonNC) April 14, 2021

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While Jackson leads the field in fundraising, another big name Democrat will be entering this race soon:

Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is expected to officially announce her candidacy in the next few weeks, according to a friend authorized to speak on her behalf.

“She’s putting a team together, is planning to announce and I think we’ll see that in early April,” said Kara Hollingsworth, a Cary-based political consultant who has worked on previous Beasley campaigns and remains close with Beasley.

Beasley, 55, lost a close election for chief justice in 2020, losing to Republican Paul Newby by 401 votes. It was the third statewide election for Beasley, who won a seat on the court of appeals in 2008. She was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 2012 and then won her seat in 2014.

Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Beasley as chief justice in 2019. She was the first Black woman to serve as chief justice.

The Tarheel State race is also expected to be expensive thanks to its seven media markets. Aside from Georgia, which hosted two Senate runoff elections that determined the balance of the chamber, the 2020 North Carolina Senate race was the most expensive of the cycle, attracting $222 million in outside spending according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Trump carried the state by just 1 percentage point in 2020, while Tillis also narrowly won a second term, defeating Democrat Cal Cunningham by 2 points.

Democrats are also expected to have a competitive primary. Former state Sen. Erica Smith, who lost to Cunningham in the 2020 primary, is running again. Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton, a a retired Air Force colonel, and state Sen. Jeff Jackson, a captain in the Army National Guard who served in Afghanistan, are also in the race. And more candidates could jump in. Former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and Joan Higginbotham, a former astronaut, are both reportedly weighing runs.

Let’s get ready to expand our Senate Majority by flipping this seat Blue. Click below to donate and get involved with the North Carolina Democrat of your choice:

Jeff Jackson

Erica Smith

North Carolina Democratic Party

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