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Democrat Cheri Beasley has lost to Republican Ted Budd in the Senate race in North Carolina, Decision Desk HQ projects.
As a Democrat running in a Republican-leaning state, Beasley was tasked with not only energizing the urban Democratic base, but also connecting with rural, independent and conservative voters.
For much of the year, Beasley’s race flew under the radar as the national spotlight focused on Senate races in Georgia and Pennsylvania. While Budd led in polls in the summer, his lead all but disappeared by summer’s end.
Throughout the campaign, Beasley highlighted her electability and experience winning at the state level, a hurdle familiar to many Black women candidates.
In her two decades as a state district and appeals court judge, Beasley won multiple judicial elections. She was appointed to the North Carolina Supreme Court in 2012. After the court’s chief justice retired in 2019, Beasley was appointed to that top position, becoming the state’s first Black woman to hold the role. The following year, Beasley lost her bid to be elected as chief justice for a full term by 401 votes.
“Running for Senate, it’s good to have some experience running at the state level because when you run statewide the money is different,” Aisha Dew, the political director for the Higher Heights for America PAC, a group focused on Black women political candidates that endorsed Beasley. “When you look at the millions of dollars they raised in the North Carolina and South Carolina Senate races in 2020, it’s no joke.”
Beasley’s campaign raised more than $33 million, including nearly $11 million in small individual donations of less than $200. Budd raised $12.4 million, with about $3 million in small donations as of October 19.
In addition to outraising Budd, Beasley made a point to spend time in rural counties and championed issues she felt a broad swath of people could get behind, including lowering health care costs. She was also vocal on the politically fraught issue of reproductive rights, calling for new protections in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning federal abortion rights in June.
North Carolina voters tend to back Republicans at the federal level. The state has not elected a Democratic U.S. senator or backed a Democratic president since 2008.
Beasley’s loss, in addition to the loss of Democrat Val Demings, who fell short in her challenge to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida, means the Senate will remain with no Black women.