Top NC Dems approach November election with cash edge over GOP rivals

Democrats Cheri Beasley and Wiley Nickel outraised Republicans Ted Budd and Bo Hines in their respective bids for U.S. Senate and U.S. House seats.

Posted Updated

Bryan Anderson
, WRAL state government reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Democrats entered July on a stronger financial footing than their Republican opponents in a pair of closely watched federal races that could factor into who will control congressional chambers in Washington.
In the tight race for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat, Democratic candidate Cheri Beasley received $5.83 million in net contributions from April 28 to June 30, Federal Election Commission records show. Her Republican competitor, U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, took in $1.54 million during that period. Budd entered July with $1.78 million in the bank compared to Beasley’s $4.82 million.

Meanwhile, in what is likely to be the closest U.S. House race in the state, GOP political newcomer Bo Hines had about one-fifth as much money at his disposal as his Democratic rival, state Sen. Wiley Nickel.

While the money advantage doesn’t guarantee success in an election, it does give Democrats an edge in a year when their congressional majorities are in jeopardy. The economy and recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court over abortion and gun rights also complicate matters, each party hopes the issues will motivate their voters to the polls.

In recent fundraising emails, Budd used the imbalance to plead with prospective donors.

“We are way behind where we need to be,” Budd’s campaign wrote to supporters on Friday. “Cheri Beasley is raking in millions, and we are slowly falling behind.”

Beasley’s campaign has heralded its fundraising haul, saying that the former North Carolina Supreme Court chief justice “continues to earn unmatched support because North Carolinians know she is the only candidate in this race who will stand up to both parties and corporate special interests to put North Carolinians first.”

Beasley seizes money advantage

The outcome of North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race could have major national implications. At stake is control of a chamber that is currently split 50-50 along ideological lines. If Republicans retake control, President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda could come to an abrupt halt.

Budd has made voters’ economic frustrations central to his campaign, arguing Biden and Democratic lawmakers are ill-equipped to tackle rising costs residents are seeing in grocery stores, at the gas pumps and elsewhere. Beasley has discussed the need to lower prescription drug costs.

Inflation rose by 9.1% from June relative to a year earlier, representing a 41-year high.

But commodity prices have begun to drop in recent weeks. As of Monday, a regular gallon of gas in North Carolina costs nearly $4.18, down from $4.63 a month ago, according to the American Automobile Association. While gas prices have dropped by 10% during the past month, they are still 44% higher than the $2.91 drivers paid for a regular gallon of gas a year ago.

Budd said Beasley should use the money to travel to speak with voters in places she hasn’t campaigned, suggesting that she’s spent too much time on fundraising rather than getting to know her constituents. Budd has taken pride in his effort to visit every county in the state, which he says he completed in the spring.

“With her huge cash advantage, maybe Cheri Beasley can afford enough gas to finally visit voters in all 100 counties in North Carolina instead of ignoring them like she did during her three previous statewide campaigns,” Budd said in a statement.

Beasley, who received donations from all 100 counties, has held public events across the state since entering the race last year, her campaign said. Beasley’s spokeswoman Dory MacMillan took aim at Budd, saying the congressman has largely benefited from wealthy donors.

“Ted Budd’s inability to earn support beyond corporate donors and the ultra-wealthy is only fitting given his career-long focus on putting corporations before people,” MacMillan said in a statement on Monday.

FEC filings show the value of 75% of contributions to Budd’s campaign between April 28 and June 30 came from individual donors, while 25% came from political party committees and other political committees. Meanwhile, 96% of Beasley's haul came from individual donations and 4% from political committees.

U.S. Senate race remains tight

As Beasley was put on a glidepath to the Democratic nomination after her two top primary opponents dropped out last year, Budd encountered two major Republican opponents, which prompted a Washington, D.C. group called Club for Growth to spend more than $12 million to bolster Budd, who hadn’t held political office before running successfully for congress in 2016.

Beasley first ran for statewide office in 2008, handily securing a place on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. She then narrowly won a state Supreme Court in 2014 and narrowly lost in 2020.

Jonathan Felts, Budd top’s campaign adviser, said that because Beasley has run more statewide campaigns than Budd, “it’s only natural Beasley would have the advantage of a preexisting, carefully cultivated golden Rolodex of donors.”

“The Beasley campaign is making the same mistake made by our primary opposition, obsessing over money while ignoring the grassroots,” Felts added. “We encourage them to continue making that mistake.”

A recent WRAL News Poll had Budd and Beasley in a tight race.
The results, which came about two weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned the precedent set in the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion case and let states implement stricter abortion restrictions, showed Beasley with a 4 point lead over Budd. Her lead was within the survey’s credibility interval of 5.1 percentage points. A credibility interval is similar to a margin of error.

Other polls conducted since the May 17 primary, including three from Republican-leaning groups and one from an apolitical entity, show Budd narrowly ahead of Beasley.

Democrat winning money war in close U.S. House race

The newly drawn 13th Congressional District is widely expected to be the most competitive House race in North Carolina this year. It features Hines, a former N.C. State football player, and Nickel, a current state senator.

Hines and Nickel are also trying to make abortion a central issue to their campaigns.

After the Supreme Court last month overturned the precedent set in Roe, Hines said he’d “fight for common-sense legislation that aligns” with his view that a woman should go through with a pregnancy.

Nickel said he’d “fight like hell to make sure every woman in North Carolina has the right to choose” and support a bill to codify 1973 Supreme Court decision that conferred the right to have an abortion.

From April 28 to June 30, Hines’ campaign raised nearly $197,000, excluding a $150,000 personal loan from the candidate. The value of about 56% of the net contributions Hines received came from individuals, while 44% came from political party committees or other political committees.

Nickel’s campaign took in $291,000 over the same period, with 68% of the value coming from individual donors and 32% from other political committees and Nickel himself.

“It’s an honor to receive support from so many hard-working folks who believe in our campaign and know that we can take on Bo Hines to flip this seat blue in November,” Nickel said in a statement.

Nickel entered July with $510,000 in the bank, nearly five times more than Hines’ $103,000.

Rob Burgess, a spokesman for Hines’ campaign, said the gap in available cash stems from Hines running in a more competitive primary. “This number reflects a primary as well as walking into a general election,” Burgess said. “Bo Hines had a contested primary, whereas Wiley Nickel had a coronation.”