Rep. Ted Budd (R., N.C.) will be the next U.S. senator from North Carolina. The congressman and gun-store owner defeated Democrat Cheri Beasley on Tuesday in the race to succeed retiring senator Richard Burr (R., N.C.).
Major networks called the race around 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time. With more than 95 percent of precincts reporting, Budd led Beasley by 4 percentage points. Libertarian and Green Party candidates combined to win 2.2 percent of the vote in a closer-than-expected contest. It was a crucial hold for Republicans on a night when control of the U.S. Senate will depend on the party's ability to flip seats in Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada.
Budd led almost every poll by several percentage points but underperformed slightly compared with the RealClearPolitics polling average. Beasley's best effort to paint the Trump-backed Republican as an "election denier" and anti-abortion zealot failed to resonate in a state where less than 40 percent of residents approved of President Joe Biden's job performance.
The race was always going to be an uphill challenge for Beasley, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court. Democrats haven't won a U.S. Senate race in North Carolina since 2008, when Barack Obama turned the state blue for the first time in more than three decades.
Like most Democrats running this cycle, Beasley struggled to address voter concerns about rising crime rates and runaway inflation and ended up running almost exclusively on abortion. Alas, not even an emergency Dave Matthews concert in Raleigh could pull her within striking distance.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) cleared the field for Beasley to win the nomination after critics accused him of favoring white candidates in the 2020 election. "Sen. Schumer, for whatever reason, did not want an African American running for Senate in North Carolina," said Erica Smith, a black state lawmaker who lost the Democratic primary that year.
Schumer's hand-picked candidate in 2020, white man Cal Cunningham, narrowly lost to Sen. Thom Tillis (R., N.C.) after cheating on his wife during the campaign.