RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – If you want to see Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Ted Budd argue about their visions for North Carolina’s open seat in the U.S. Senate, you apparently will have one shot.
Budd and Beasley have agreed to a debate for Oct. 7 to be hosted by Spectrum News One for its subscribers.
The two had considered several offers, including one that Beasley had accepted from the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, and one from Nexstar, the parent company for WGHP, which has a statewide network of stations.
Budd last Friday had said he was willing to debate, and the two had agreed on Spectrum but were uncertain about the date, because they discovered their first choice (Oct. 5) conflicted with Yom Kippur, the Jewish high holiday.
The hour-long debate on Spectrum is on a Friday night, and that day and time, combined with Spectrum’s limitation of being only a cable and streaming channel for subscribers, means the audience will have some limitations.
Spectrum has approached 3 million broadband subscribers statewide, but it’s unclear how many viewers Spectrum News One reaches in North Carolina.
Tim Boyum, who hosts “Front Porch Politics” on the channel, figures to be the questioner, although that has not been announced. Boyum was the moderator for a GOP primary debate.
Budd had declined to participate in that forum and three other statewide debates (including one hosted at WGHP) when he beat former Gov. Pat McCrory, former Rep. Mark Walker and newcomer Marjorie Eastman – all of whom participated – in a field of 14 to win the GOP nomination in May.
“After Congressman Budd dodged debates in the primary, spent most of this summer hiding from voters, and refused to participate in a statewide debate available to the most North Carolinians,” Travis Brimm, Beasley’s campaign manager, said in a release on Wednesday afternoon, “Cheri is prepared and ready to meet Congressman Budd on his preferred debate stage – because she believes that every North Carolinian deserves to see the clear choice before them this fall.”
Jonathan Felts, Budd’s senior advisor, in a release Wednesday: “Last Wednesday, we accepted the Spectrum News invitation to debate and were perfectly willing to negotiate on dates. However, when the Beasley campaign blatantly lied to the press this past Friday, it was clear the Beasley team was not negotiating in good faith. It is disappointing Ms. Beasley condones such actions from her staff.
“We refused to negotiate additional dates with the Beasley campaign after their unethical actions, but continued to be willing to honor our commitment to debate on the dates we had previously offered. We are glad the Beasley campaign capitulated today and look forward to Cheri Beasley explaining why she keeps embracing Joe Biden’s reckless spending policies that are driving up inflation and crushing family budgets across NC.”
It’s also unclear whether the Spectrum has invited Libertarian Shannon Bray or Green Party candidate Matthew Hoh. Felts had said last week that Budd’s campaign welcomed their participation.
A tight race and field of 4
Beasley, former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court; Budd, who has represented the 13th Congressional District since 2016; Bray, a Department of Defense employee; and Hoh, recently certified on the ballot, all want to replace Republican Richard Burr of Winston-Salem, who is retiring after three terms.
The race is considered a toss-up, with FiveThirtyEight’s assimilated tracking poll showing it as even. Civitas, a conservative group that oversees the John Locke Foundation, recently showed the candidates in a dead heat – at 42.3% — with about 12.6% undecided and 1.9% supporting Bray.
A High Point University Poll has shown Democrats with a slight edge on generic ballots. None is outside the margin of error.
Other candidates want in
The Green Party only recently was allowed to have candidates on the ballot – Democrats had opposed their inclusion on technicalities – and in a release on Wednesday, Hoh pushed for a spot on the debate stage.
“If I am not included in the debates, North Carolina voters will not be given the opportunity to hear someone speak in support of Medicare for All, affordable housing as a right, annually adjusted living wages, universal pre-k through higher education, a Green New Deal, and ending the war on drugs. These are not only issues that have majority public opinion support but are true life-or-death issues for North Carolinians and their families,” he said in a release by his campaign.
“To have a debate for US Senate, and to not include a ballot-qualified candidate who is willing to speak without having to appease big-money donors, about issues that are of critical concern to North Carolina, our country, and our planet, would be a miscarriage of democracy.
“Both Shannon Bray and I are on the ballot for US Senate and any institution sponsoring a supposed ‘debate’ that locks us out would be complicit in perpetuating the ruinous two-party system that is so corrupt, harmful, and undemocratic that over 60% of U.S. adults now say we need a new party.
“What are the Democrats and Republicans afraid that voters will hear if we are allowed to participate?”