GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) will have another week to decide whether he will accept an invitation from the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters to debate Democrat Cheri Beasley in their race for the U.S. Senate.

Republican Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley (WGHP file photo
Republican Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley (WGHP file photo)

NCAB apparently had wanted an answer from the campaigns by Aug. 31, but Budd’s spokesperson Jonathan Felts last week told WGHP that Budd would wait until after Labor Day – that’s Monday – to decide about this or any other debate.

Felts reiterated that position on Thursday, saying the position is the “same as it’s been since the primary.”

Beasley had last week immediately accepted the invitation to a debate to be staged in October – Oct. 11 and Oct. 12 apparently are being considered – at a studio in the Research Triangle Park.

In communications with the campaigns, NABC extended its deadline to next Friday. It’s unclear whether the NABC has invited Libertarian Shannon Bray or Green Party candidate Matthew Hoh.

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.

Lisa Reynolds, the executive director of the NCAB, did not respond to two phone messages, emails or a text message seeking confirmation and comment. But documents produced by the organization and reviewed by WGHP outlined the plan for a deadline of Sept. 9.

Dory MacMillan, a spokesperson for Beasley, reiterated her candidate’s plan to participate.

“Cheri doesn’t need more time to decide whether she’ll share her vision with North Carolinians for a stronger economy, lower costs, and leadership that puts people first – that’s what she’s been doing throughout this campaign and why she’s made it clear she’s ready to debate,” MacMillan said in an email. “But Congressman Budd has focused on hiding from voters and dodging debates because he doesn’t want to own up to his record of helping himself and special interests at the expense of North Carolinians.” 

Budd has spent the past couple of weeks at various campaign and fundraising appearances around North Carolina. He appeared this week on a panel in Davidson County with Sen. Thom Tillis and members of the supportive state sheriff’s association to talk about crime.

The two campaigns – and their supporting state and national parties – have been aggressive in their attacks on each other for various positions, philosophies and activities.

But Budd had declined to participate in four statewide debates when he beat former Gov. Pat McCrory, former Rep. Mark Walker and newcomer Marjorie Eastman – all of whom participated in debates – in a field of 14 to win the GOP nomination in May.

The NCAB’s plan for the statewide debate is the first about which either candidate has announced a position.

The race is considered a toss-up, with fivethirtyeight.com’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.

Favorability ratings

A poll released this week by High Point University gave Beasley a higher favorability rating among adults in North Carolina. Some 31% found Beasley favorable, compared to 25% for Budd.

Her unfavorable rating was 28%, and his was 39%. But about a third had no opinion about either.

HPU’s poll also showed Democrats as slightly ahead (40% to 38%) on what is called a “generic ballot” of preferred candidates for November. That’s well within the margin of error.

When they were asked about how they would vote in their local race for North Carolina’s congressional seats, respondents showed a wider spread, to 40% for Democrats and 37% for Republicans. But 20% say they are undecided.

Most observers figure the GOP to be in control of seven of the state’s 14 congressional seats, with one – the newly drawn 13th District, not the one Budd now serves – deemed a tossup between state Sen. Wiley Nickel, a Democrat, and newcomer Bo Hines.

Democrats showed a 4-percentage-point advantage (40%-36%) in the elections for the North Carolina Supreme Court. Two seats are on the ballot, and the political control of the court – now 4-3 for Democrats – could change.

Incumbent Democrat Sam Ervin is being challenged by Trey Allen, a former clerk for Chief Justice Paul Newby. And two Court of Appeals judges, Republican Richard Dietz and Democrat Lucy Inman, are vying for the seat being vacated by the retiring Democrat Robin Hudson.

Inflation factors

HPU’s pollsters also asked how rising prices had affected North Carolinians most dramatically. Most said in the prices of gasoline (76%), followed by various food items, natural gas and electronics.

“North Carolinians continue to say that gas prices are affecting their household a lot, similar to a poll conducted in April,” Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll, said in a release. “In addition to paying more for gas than they did compared to a year ago, a majority of respondents feel that they are also paying more for products like meat and eggs.”

What do they blame for these prices? About equal numbers blamed President Joe Biden (47%) and the COVID-19 pandemic (44%). Only slightly more than 1 in 4 said Republicans in Congress were to be blamed, and fewer than 1 in 5 said they blamed themselves.