North Carolina Democratic Senate hopeful Jeff Jackson said critical race theory "doesn't exist" after a voter asked for his position on the controversial curriculum.
At a Friday town hall in Columbus, Jackson refused to say whether he supports teaching critical race theory in schools, instead denying the existence of the educational theory that claims that the history of the United States, as well as modern issues, can be explained through the lens of white supremacy.
"It's literally not happening, ma'am," Jackson said. "It's not about whether we're against it or for it, it's about a party that's convinced people it's a threat, but it doesn't exist."
"Oh, it doesn't exist?" the voter responded, waving her hands in frustration. "Okay. Okay."
Democratic candidates across the country have echoed Jackson's sentiment. Virginia gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe, for example, dismissed critical race theory as a "right-wing conspiracy," ignoring the fact that his top union backers have defended teaching the curriculum in schools. In New York, meanwhile, a constituent accused Rep. Sean Maloney of insulting his intelligence after the Democrat dismissed his concerns over critical race theory.
"I think somebody's trying to get you all mad about this for no reason," Maloney said before calling critical race theory "a law school academic methodology" that "a bunch of smart demagogues at Fox News" picked up "to make everybody pissed off about it."
Friday's town hall was not the first time Jackson declined to take a stance on teaching critical race theory in public schools. At a July forum in Holly Springs, the state legislator told a voter that the drafting of racial curriculum should be left to local education officials. Jackson's campaign did not return a request for comment.
While Jackson and other Democrats claim critical race theory is not being taught in K-12 classrooms, a California school district in June approved a "new Ethnic Studies policy" that is "informed by and will include Critical Race Theory and the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum." The district's board allocated $40 million to implement the curriculum, which starts in preschool.
Jackson faces a crowded primary field in his bid to replace outgoing GOP senator Richard Burr. His opponents include former North Carolina Supreme Court chief justice Cheri Beasley and former state senator Erica Smith. Smith has likened Jackson to failed Senate candidate Cal Cunningham, who lost to Republican incumbent Thom Tillis after cheating on his wife.
"Dan McCready. Cal Cunningham. And now, Jeff Jackson," Smith wrote in a June fundraising email. "When it comes to identifying candidates who can build winning campaigns and beat Republicans, the Democratic Party doesn't exactly have a great track record. That's because the Democratic establishment insists on nominating moderate candidates who can't win."
Jackson leads the primary in fundraising as of June 30, taking in $2 million to Beasley's $1.3 million and Smith's $310,000.