Democrat Jeff Jackson suspends US Senate campaign

State Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, says he will leave the race for U.S. Senate.

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2022 Democratic US Senate candidate Jeff Jackson and family, from campaign announcement video.
Paul Specht
, PolitiFact reporter, & Travis Fain, WRAL statehouse reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — State Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Democrat who was angling for North Carolina’s soon-to-be-open U.S. Senate seat, is leaving the race and endorsing the front runner.
“Everyone needs to know when to step aside,” Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, said in a statement Thursday. He endorsed former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, whom he described as the Democrats’ presumptive nominee.

“Beasley has served this state honorably for over two decades and has always fought for justice," Jackson said in a statement. “She’ll be a great U.S. senator for North Carolina.

“Unlike the Republicans in this race, we won’t be participating in a costly and divisive primary. If we’re going to flip this seat in November, we need to unite—and we need to unite behind Cheri.”

WRAL News was the first to report Jackson's plans to leave the race. Sources told WRAL on Wednesday that Jackson had spent part of the day calling donors to inform them of his decision

Jackson had been considered one of the top candidates to win the Democratic primary in a race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr, whose seat will come open in 2023.

But Michael Bitzer, a Catawba College politics professor, said Jackson’s poll numbers showed he would have an uphill battle against Beasley.

“With the extension of the primary and an added two months, that really put things into a greater context for Jackson and [he] just realized the historic nature of Beasley's candidacy and the role that African American women play in Democratic Party politics,” Bitzer said.

Beasley is the first Black woman to serve as chief justice of the state Supreme Court. She’s also expected to be the first Black woman nominee for U.S. Senate in North Carolina.  

The state Supreme Court this month ordered the March primaries delayed until May 17 to accommodate legal challenges related to the state’s new congressional and legislative district maps.

Beasley said in a statement Thursday that the election is "bigger than any one person."

“Senator Jackson brought attention to the issues important to so many North Carolinians, and I know he will continue to do meaningful work in the state Senate," she said. "I’m grateful to have his support in this race."

He's at least the second Democrat to drop out of the race. Former state Sen. Erica Smith said last month that she would leave the Senate race and run for the U.S. House instead, seeking to replace retiring Democratic 1st District Congressman G.K. Butterfield.

The Democratic field also includes Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton and others.

On the Republican side, former Gov. Pat McCrory and 13th District Congressman Ted Budd lead the field, along with former Congressman Mark Walker. Walker has considered leaving the race to run for a U.S. House seat instead and said this week he'd review his options over the holidays.