In what was an extremely close race right up until the finish, Republican U.S. Representative Ted Budd defeated Democratic candidate and former state Chief Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley for U.S. Senate, 51% to 47%.
The candidates were vying for an open seat, as incumbent Republican Senator Richard Burr had decided to not seek reelection.
Cheri Beasley was first appointed to the bench as a state district court judge in North Carolina in 1999, then won the seat outright in a 2002 election and was re-elected in 2006 (a wave year for Democrats) without opposition.
In 2008 she was elected to the state Court of Appeals, becoming the first black woman to win election to statewide office in North Carolina without having been previously appointed to the given position. In 2012, she was appointed to the state Supreme Court, and won the seat outright in a 2014 election.
In 2019, she was appointed Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, but lost an election to retain the seat in 2020 by a heartbreaking 401 votes.
The Republican candidate, Ted Budd, has represented the state’s 13th Congressional District since 2017. He is a member of the far right wing Freedom Caucus and owns his own gun store. He had the support of both the Club for Growth and Donald Trump. Budd voted against certifying the 2020 election in the hours after the pro-Trump insurrectionist mob was cleared from the United States Capitol on January 6th, 2021. More recently, he was quick to embrace South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham’s proposal for a national ban on most abortions after fifteen weeks, co-sponsoring the companion House version.
The Republican campaign focused on inflation, that Beasley was “soft on crime”, exaggerating Democratic positions on abortion and feeding transphobic fears, then translating it into increased perceived risk in public schools.
At one point television stations throughout the state decided to pull an attack ad against Beasley that accused her, while Chief Justice, of voting in favor of “setting free… a child porn offender.”
The Democrats focused on increasing black voter turnout, especially through “souls to the polls” outreach at black churches, referencing the dangerous effects of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, and, interestingly, acknowledging inflation and providing options to limit its effects on families.
Neither campaign received the level of national visibility or the outside funding of other races. North Carolina has been a very tough state for Democrats within the top tier of offices for over a decade, but neither candidate seemed to want the strongest likely draws for media attention — President Joe Biden for Beasley, and former President Donald Trump for Ted Budd — stumping for them in North Carolina. They settled instead for House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Senator Ted Cruz.