Politics

Schumer-Backed NC Candidate Dodges on Impeachment

Cal Cunningham criticized for being 'vague on issues'

Cal Cunningham Wikimedia Commons

North Carolina Democratic Senate contender Cal Cunningham dodged questions about whether he supports impeachment, despite endorsing an inquiry even before the August whistleblower complaint over President Donald Trump's handling of Ukrainian aid.

Cunningham refused to take a position when asked if he had "heard enough" to support impeachment during a Wednesday interview. The former state senator instead referred to President Donald Trump's "deeply, deeply troubling" actions that "we ought to be very deeply troubled about."

"The facts are pretty deeply troublesome," he said when pressed about whether he would commit to impeaching the president.

Cunningham, who launched a failed U.S. Senate bid in 2010, is challenging freshman Republican senator Thom Tillis in 2020 with support from the national party. His noncommittal approach to ousting President Trump, who won the state by about 4 points in 2016, comes as public opinion has moved against Democrats on the issue. An Emerson College poll revealed that only 43 percent of Americans support impeachment, down from 48 percent in October.

Cunningham's response reflects Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's (D., N.Y.) broader approach for winning back the upper chamber—a "windowless basement" strategy in which candidates prioritize fundraising over grassroots support. While fellow Tillis challenger Erica Smith has firmly defined her progressive platform, Cunningham, whom the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed in October, remains vague on policy and does not have an event page on his campaign site.

"At least Erica Smith is brave enough to be honest about her support for radical ideas like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, decriminalizing border crossings, and impeaching President Trump," Tillis campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo said. "Cowardly Cal Cunningham, however, is so determined to try to avoid taking stances on the liberal policies of his party, that he continues to ask North Carolinians for their vote without telling them how he would vote on the most pressing issue facing Congress."

Smith, who did not respond to a request for comment, has also criticized Cunningham for his lack of positions and availability, tweeting, "We can't find his policy positions either" in August.

Cunningham addressed the criticism during the Wednesday interview, telling Spectrum News's Tim Boyum that he is "happy to take questions." Boyum pushed back, pointing out that Cunningham "won't say yes or no whether you think the House should impeach the President of the United States, you just say you're deeply troubled."

Though Cunningham has been criticized by Tillis and Smith alike for the "windowless basement" approach, Schumer's fundraising-first strategy has proved fruitful. Boosted by his establishment backing, Cunningham has raised more than $1.7 million to date, while Smith has raised less than $140,000.

Smith has questioned Cunningham's ability to represent North Carolina given Schumer's involvement in the primary, telling RealClearPolitics that "New York is not going to get another vote in the Senate," a reference to the $152,000 Cunningham received from New York donors.

Cunningham, who did not respond to request for comment, has not won an election for public office in 19 years. Initially a candidate for lieutenant governor, he withdrew in June to run for Senate.

While Cunningham has refused to take a stance on impeachment, Tillis vehemently opposes it, calling the inquiry a "waste of resources" and arguing that Congress should "focus on the things that we can do for the American worker and the American economy."