Schumer Successfully Blocks Black Woman From N.C. Senate Nom

March 4, 2020

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) succeeded in his arguably racist quest to prevent a black woman from winning the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in North Carolina.

State senator Erica Smith (D.), a former Boeing engineer who tried to become just the third black woman in history to serve in the Senate, came up short in the Democratic primary on Tuesday. Cal Cunningham, a former state senator and Schumer-approved white man, secured the party's nomination with 56 percent of the vote. Smith placed second with 36 percent. Cunningham will face Republican incumbent Thom Tillis in the November election.

"We had an extraordinary run," Smith tweeted to supporters on Tuesday. "We took on a giant and ... came up short." Smith refrained from lashing out at the Democratic Party leadership, as she had done on numerous occasions during the campaign.

"Sen. Schumer, for whatever reason, did not want an African American running for Senate in North Carolina," said Smith at a campaign rally in January. She also accused the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) in October of breaking its pledge to remain neutral by formally endorsing Cunningham.

At the time, Smith denounced the DSCC endorsement as an "unacceptable" attempt to "sway this U.S. Senate election away from the voices and voters of North Carolina." She said party leaders had told her campaign "unequivocally, that they were not, had not, did not intend to endorse in the primary."

Before Cunningham even announced his candidacy in June, he had received more than $150,000 from New York-based donors, all but two of whom had also donated to Schumer. These donations comprised more than a third of Cunningham's itemized contributions for the second quarter of 2019, according to federal election records. This early support, Smith argued, was a sign that party leadership had been "unofficially backing Cal Cunningham as their 'heir apparent' with personnel, resources, directed donations, infrastructure, and more since he entered the race."

In an apparent effort to prevent Smith from winning the nomination, Schumer had been courting other white men as possible candidates prior to Cunningham's entry into the race. One of those white men, state senator Jeff Jackson (D.), was caught on tape recounting advice Schumer had given him about campaigning against Tillis. Speaking to a politics class at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Jackson recalled telling Schumer that, if he decided to run, he would hold "100 town halls in 100 days" in each of the state's 100 counties.

Schumer, according to Jackson, disagreed. "Wrong answer," the minority leader responded. "We want you to spend the next 16 months in a windowless basement raising money, and then we're going to spend 80 percent of it on negative ads about Tillis."