2022 Senate race again puts North Carolina in national political spotlight

Tuesday, January 11, 2022
2022 Senate race again puts NC in national spotlight
Joe Biden didn't need NC to win the White House, but the GOP will need support from NC voters if they want to reclaim control of the U.S. Congress.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Joe Biden didn't need North Carolina to win the White House, but Republicans will need support from North Carolina voters if they want to reclaim control of the U.S. Congress.

"The single most important thing for Republicans is stopping Joe Biden, and you can't stop Joe Biden unless you retake the Congress," Chris Christie, the former GOP governor of New Jersey and ABC News Contributor, told ABC11. "In close states like North Carolina, you're not going to win with just Republican votes. You're going to need to get independent votes."

The upcoming general election on November 8, 2022, will occur at the midpoint of President Biden's four-year term, and at stake in this election is all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 34 seats among the 100-member U.S. Senate. Democrats maintain a slim nine-person majority in the House, and a razor-thin majority in the Senate thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote in a 50-50 party split.

In North Carolina specifically, there are now 14 congressional districts up for grabs, though their official boundaries--and political geographic impact--remain in limbo. Senator Richard Burr's retirement, however, leaves an open Senate seat with no incumbent for the first time since 2004 when Burr defeated Democrat Erskine Bowles for the seat vacated by Sen. John Edwards.

READ MORE: Balance of power in state, national politics at stake in NC redistricting trial

"North Carolinians have shown an incredible purple streak over time," Christie added. "And winning is what leads you to govern. If you don't win, you can't govern."

Surpassing $1 billion in campaign spending, the 2020 Senate race in North Carolina between Sen. Thom Tillis (R) and Cal Cunningham (D) was among the most expensive in U.S. history. The 2022 Senate race is expected to surpass that, but the primary election that precedes the general election is also contentious, especially among Republicans.

While former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is the presumptive nominee for Democrats, Republican voters must choose between Rep. Ted Budd, former Rep. Mark Walker, former Gov. Pat McCrory and political newcomer and combat veteran Marjorie K. Eastman.

"It is emblematic of where we want to go as a party and I think we want to be the party who not only can win conservative voters through conservative policies, but we also want to be the party who can appeal to independents throughout our individual states," Christie said of the NCGOP primary. "When you have a person in the White House, a majority in the Congress, people are generally together and you usually avoid a contentious primary. When the party goes out of power, everyone tries to make their own move and try to help themselves. North Carolina has often been a bell-weather for the Republican party in terms of where we are as a party."

WATCH | Pat McCrory's full interview with ABC11

Since losing a re-election bid for governor, McCrory has hosted a popular conservative radio show, but now he's ready to get back in the political arena.

Christie, who some analysts expect to have his own national electoral aspirations, has himself endorsed McCrory in the race.

"I'm running based upon my track record of success and kept promises as a city councilmember, a mayor and as a governor," McCrory told ABC11 in a sit-down interview at his campaign office in Charlotte. "I've been more worried about the next generation than the next election."

WATCH | Rep. Ted Budd's full interview with ABC11

He is already a member of Congress, but Ted Budd thinks he can make a greater impact for North Carolina if he moves to the other chamber.

Budd, meanwhile, has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

"I believe we can make America great again. That was the former President's term, but I really believe in America's strength. I believe in America's fiscal responsibility. I believe in personal responsibility," Budd said in an interview with ABC11 in Raleigh.

WATCH | Mark Walker's full interview with ABC11

Former Congressman Mark Walker says his leadership skills and conservative conviction make him the right candidate to represent NC in the Senate.

Walker, who trails in the polls, has embraced his "underdog status" and remains committed to staying in the race.

"I think we've got to focus on where we're heading as Republicans, as conservatism, which has a chance to expand this year. It's imperative we look forward," Walker told ABC11 in a one-on-one interview at his campaign headquarters in Greensboro. "The reason I am wanting to be a U.S. Senator is because I believe I have the track record of leading to be able to have success in one of the more difficult places in the country, and that's Washington, D.C."

WATCH | Marjorie K. Eastman's full interview with ABC11

Extended interview: 2022 Senate hopeful Marjorie K. Eastman sits down with ABC11's Jonah Kaplan to discuss her bid to win the Republican nomination.

Eastman is new to the political scene and relatively new to North Carolina, having only moved here four years ago. The former intelligence officer and commander, however, first arrived in North Carolina on assignment to Fort Bragg.

Asked about why she would start a political career in what could be the most expensive Senate race in U.S. history, Eastman answered, "I'm always a soldier at heart and a soldier runs toward the fight, and right now the battle for this country is in the Senate where we are deadlocked and we are about to tip."

Beasley made history in 2019 when she was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to serve as Chief Justice - the first African American woman to hold that position. If elected to the U.S. Senate, she'll be the first African American woman to represent North Carolina in the chamber.

WATCH | Cheri Beasley's full interview with ABC11

Cheri Beasley is the frontrunner to become the Democratic candidate to replace Sen. Richard Burr.

"Diversity really does matter," Beasley explained. "I can tell you the first time I was ever in the courtroom and saw an African American woman presiding, for me that was life-changing. "I think people feel ownership and trust and confidence when we have diversity, which benefits us all."

North Carolina, of course, is not exclusive to these intra-party battles, but the State Supreme Court's decision to delay the primary from March 8th until May 17th will give North Carolina almost exclusive attention as a final partisan battleground before attention turns toward November.