Full interview: Cunningham on pandemic, Senate campaign
Cal Cunningham, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, discusses campaigning during the pandemic and what the federal government should do to fight coronavirus.
Cal Cunningham is the Democratic nominee, hoping to unseat Republican Thom Tillis this November. Joining us now, Thank you. Good morning to you, David. Good to see you that you were doing well. Fortunately, I am, sir. This has probably not been the campaign you have expected, given the pandemic. So how has your strategy shifted when it comes to connecting with voters? Well, David, fortunately, we've been healthy and we've been safe, and the campaign team has all been working remotely. We've tried to take the same spirit of this campaign online that we already had before the state of home waters in the emergency said it. So I've been holding Zoom town halls, virtual town halls all over North Carolina, engaging with North Carolinians listeningto what's on their minds. It is not as it's not. His ideal is being able to see people in person to travel our state. But we're making do, and we're making sure that I'm hearing from folks all over our state, you know, at the beginning of the pandemic, for the most part, we saw politics set aside for a few months. We've watched that dwindle somewhat as we inch ever so closer to the election. You've been critical of Senator Telesis response. What would you have done differently regarding Cove in 19 and the pandemic? Well, David, first of all, some of the most important issues that I'm hearing about right now are just more urgent expressions of issues that we were already hearing from North Carolinians as I was traveling our state. We are in the midst of a public health crisis, and our need for health care and coverage is has never been more urgent. So our need and our states need to expand Medicaid eyes front and center. It is one of the ways that is people have come out of the workforce. We would have continued to make sure they had access to quality and affordable care. We hear from lots of our state and local officials about the challenges they were facing keeping first responders on the payroll, making sure that teachers have what they need to educate our students this fall. These air, among many priorities that I've been focusing on to help us turn the corner on this public health crisis and make sure that folks have the coverage that they need. The assistance that they need and that we can educate. Our kids are going forward. Mr. Cunningham, if you were in the United States Senate today knowing that there could be another stimulus package coming, what would your points be to sell your caucus on what needs to be done to whether it's for unemployment benefits, how much that's going to be MAWR benefits going to the states, more help going to the States from the federal government? What specifically, would you hold up in the well of the Senate and say, This is what we have to do? Well, my North Star a zit is now, as it would be in the U. S. Senate is the voices of North Carolinians. And so I'm hearing from people across our state who are out of the workforce, who are relying on unemployment assistance to put food on their tables and to pay the bills I'm hearing from our local governments in our state government about there very urgent need to keep people are first responders and our teachers on the job. I'm hearing about the need for us to provide and the opportunity for the federal government to provide another little kick for us to expand Medicaid in this state by reinstating 100% cost year while we're in this crisis. Those are among the big issues that I'm hearing from North Carolinians. I would be remiss if I would didn't. Also mention are still persistent need for testing, contact tracing and the personal protective equipment necessary to keep our people safe. Yeah, and if you had the chance to speak with the president, what would you say to him today? Well, I would encourage him to make sure that he's focused on the most urgent needs of people I wanted. I want to make sure that he is thinking, as I am about the needs of ordinary North Carolinians, and there are a lot of people who were sick and hurt and financially in dire straits. Right now, we need to put ah, money in the hands of those families. Whether that be through direct payments for unemployment assistance. We need to make sure that all of our people have quality affordable health care in the midst of this pandemic. And I would urge him to join with me in responding to the voices that I'm hearing from to meet the urgent needs in front of us right now. You know, many of the voices we hear from here in WRL are people who are just scared me. They don't know which way to turn. They don't know if they should goto work what they're going to do for childcare when their Children go bike school, Are their Children going back to school? Are they going to have a job? If they get sick, will there be health care? I mean, the list goes on and on and on. In the midst of that, and then add to it, is the pandemic of systemic racism. And add to it is the pandemic of crazy politics. The message that you would have for voters who are frightened right now. I mean, just basic North Carolinians who are saying, man, I don't know which way to turn. What do you say to David? I'm hearing what you're hearing. I'm hearing the same voices, the very deep anxieties from families from small business owners from employees who just don't know what tomorrow may bring. It is a time that demands leadership. I learned in my time in the army that at a time of crisis like the one that we face with so many facets of this crisis that we have to identify those core objectives, whether they be in public health, in the economic turmoil, in the persistent and recurring racial challenges that are our state and our country is based, we have to bring together experts and listen to those voices. Listen to experts. Then we have to put the strongest and most robust resource is behind a plan that we and then we've got to communicate about it. It's a time for very essential leadership. And frankly, when we look to Washington, we have seen then follow this response, not providing the very clear sets of plans the resource is and communicating, why we all need to be doing what we're doing to help us turn the corner and restore some sense of normalcy and build a stronger and more safe and more prosperous America. Yeah, I want to focus for just a second on one of your specific campaign ads that's running, and it is a It's a very wholesome, character building type ad. But you mentioned that when my party is wrong, I will. You either say when my party is wrong. I will tell them or I will tell them they are wrong. Um, for freshman senator to come in and face off if you have to with Chuck Schumer to tell him he's wrong. You know what will happen if you're taken to the Wood shed over disagreeing with the caucus? Are you truly prepared to do that? First and foremost, my North stories, the people of North Carolina, I'm working and striving, and my goal in the measure of my success is making sure that I raised the voices of the 10.5 million people that call North Carolina home. I won't. And I expect those 10.5 million people to be my boss, my boss is and those who give me guidance in how I hold this and put this U. S Senate seat toe work and what others may express from different regions of the country from different political persuasions or personal backgrounds. I know me and I know North Carolina. I must. I'm a native of the town of Black Sington, deeply rooted in that community served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm gonna bring very unique sense of life experiences to Washington and my goal and my job will be to make sure that Washington hears the voices of the people who call North Carolina home. Mr. Gonna am one more question here. Asleep. Focal point. I want to talk about debate plants. I know that there are a lot of moving parts and an active debate trying to get schedules together. Both campaigns together, so on and so forth. We're hoping to have you and Senator tell us for debate here with capital broadcasting that we will offer to the state as well. Did you recently turned down a debate with him in Western North Carolina? Well, first of all, David, I fully expect that we will be doing a WRL debate, and I'm looking forward to when that will take place. There are lots of ways that the voters of North Carolina can evaluate Thom Tillis at his record and what I am bringing to bear what I'm offering. We got a very short notice invitation that conflicted with dates that in fact, we're already David, as you may know, booking things all the way from the election. Yeah, So were we want to give North Carolinians the opportunity to evaluate what I have to offer and what Senator Tillis has done with this Senate seat. We intend to do that. We're working to make that happen, and we look forward to the day when it does happen. Well, we wish you the best in U. S. Senate candidate Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham. It's always we thank you for your time. We look forward to talking with you in the future and to the debate. David. Thank you. Stay healthy and stay safe. You too.