Beasley seeks to claim law enforcement mantle in US Senate race

Democrat Cheri Beasley is seeking to make the case to voters why she is the more pro-law enforcement candidate than her Republican opponent in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race.

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Cheri Beasley News Conference
Bryan Anderson
, WRAL state government reporter
DURHAM, N.C. — Democrat Cheri Beasley is seeking to make the case to voters why she is the most pro-law enforcement candidate in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race, a move that comes weeks after her Republican opponent presented himself as the candidate most supportive of police officers.

Bealsey, a former public defender, district court judge and chief justice on the state Supreme Court, on Monday announced the formation of “Law Enforcement for Beasley,” a slate of current and former law enforcement officers committed to electing the Democrat.

At a news conference outside the Durham County Courthouse, Beasley questioned Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd’s track record on the issue of policing.

“The only kind of service he has offered is lip service, and that’s not really enough,” Beasley said of her Republican opponent.

Monday’s event from Beasley was the latest move in a back-and-forth with Budd on policing. The congressman on Aug. 12 met with reporters in Raleigh to leverage an endorsement from the North Carolina Troopers Association, a group of current and retired state troopers, as he launched a series of meetings with law enforcement across the state.

On Monday, Beasley highlighted a number of cases in which Budd voted against measures that provided more funding for law enforcement agencies since he took office in 2017. Among the measures was a December 2020 Covid-19 relief bill that received overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law by former President Donald Trump.

Samantha Cotten, a spokesman for Budd’s campaign, said the congressman’s vote reflected his concerns about adding to the national deficit.

“Cheri Beasley is now on the record supporting bills that would literally add trillions to the nation's debt,” Cotten said in a statement. “Ted Budd has consistently opposed legislation raising our national debt no matter which party was pushing it.”

The measure passed the U.S. House by a vote of 359-53 and U.S. Senate 92-6. In her speech Monday, Beasley noted North Carolina’s Republican U.S. senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, supported the spending plan.

“My opponent, Congressman Budd, claims to be the law enforcement officer candidate,” Beasley said. “But the reality is during his six years in his terms of Congress, he has repeatedly voted against supporting law enforcement.”

Cotten noted Budd has the support of a number of law enforcement groups, including the National Border Control Council and the troopers’ association.

The North Carolina Republican Party on Monday took aim at Beasley’s law enforcement credentials, writing on Twitter that the “soft-on-crimes policies supported by the likes of Cheri Beasley have exacerbated the problem of violent crime in cities like Durham.”

Cotten and Jeff Moore, a spokesman for the state GOP, expressed concerns with Beasley’s campaign being included in a joint fundraising committee with Missouri U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, who has called for defunding the police.

“I do not support Defund the Police,” Beasley told reporters on Monday, referring to a movement that advocates for the reallocation of police resources to other forms of community public safety. “I know that police officers need more funding and what I hear them saying is they need more funding for … recruitment, retention, training, mental health and addressing the opioid crisis.”

Budd’s campaign also accused Beasley of not doing enough to hold violent criminals accountable, including those convicted of murder and sex crimes.

“No law enforcement groups support Cheri Beasley because Beasley has spent her career defending cop-killers, vacating death sentences for murderers and throwing out the indictments of sex offenders,” Cotten said.

Beasley’s campaign maintains the former chief justice held dangerous offenders accountable, tackled human trafficking and worked with police departments to keep communities safe.

Beasley’s coalition of law enforcement officers, including sheriffs in Durham and Franklin counties, said Beasley would be even-handed as a U.S. senator.

“She knows what it takes to be fair to everyone regardless of what your party is,” said Kent Winstead, sheriff of Franklin County.

Thomas Mills, a Democratic political analyst who has worked on multiple U.S. Senate campaigns, said Beasley’s efforts to speak about crime and visit rural communities could make a difference in an election he believes is likely to remain competitive.

Even so, Mills said, Budd and Beasley’s positioning on law enforcement issues is likely to be overshadowed by the national political landscape, concerns of increased abortion restrictions and fears of a worsening economy. He believes those with passionate views about law enforcement have already likely made their choice.

“The people for whom crime and law enforcement are the driving factor—the thing that’s going to make them vote one way or the other—those people probably for the most part are people already with Budd,” Mills said.