Beasley and Budd square off in close N.C. U.S. Senate debate

North Carolina U.S. Senate candidates Cheri Beasley, D, and Congressman Ted Budd, R, debate. Courtesy of Spectrum News 1.

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  • Budd likened Beasley to be a "rubber stamp" of the Biden Administration's policies, while Beasley linked Budd to the "extremist" position of former President Donald Trump.

North Carolina U.S. Senate candidates Congressman Ted Budd, R-NC, and Democrat Cheri Beasley, met Friday for their only debate, focusing on issues including inflation, abortion, legalization of marijuana, and crime.

The closely watched race to fill the seat of retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is currently neck and neck, with Budd having a slight lead in polls

The cordial but spirited debate hosted by Tim Boyum on Spectrum News 1 also saw some dodging from Beasley, a former state Supreme Court chief justice, when asked if she would appear with President Joe Biden if he came to the state. Beasley has had notable conflicts with appearing with him in the past. 

“President Biden is certainly welcome here,” she said. “He is our president, and he should know what’s happening here in North Carolina. If it’s an official visit, we’ll just have to see if that’s something if we’re available.”

When asked if Biden should run for reelection, she gave a similar response. “I don’t think he’s going to ask me, so we’ll see what happens,” she said.

With the highest inflation rate in 40 years, pushing up prices of everything from gas and groceries, and rising interest rates making it harder to own a home, Beasley acknowledged that prices for most things are too high for North Carolinians and the rest of the country. She said Biden and Congress could work harder to ensure prices are lowered and included Budd in the blame, saying he voted against lowering drug and gas prices.

Budd countered, pointing out low inflation (1.4% January 2021 compared to 8.26% September 2022) and low unemployment under President Donald Trump. He also said while stimulus money in the early days of the pandemic was needed for things like the Paycheck Protection Act, Biden has taken things too far with the American Rescue Plan.

“That was two trillion dollars of unnecessary spending,” he said. “We need to stop the bickering. We need to be encouraging energy. On Day 1, Joe Biden shut down the Keystone Pipeline, killing 10,000 jobs and more after that.” Budd also said people need to be encouraged to return to work and pointed to overregulation, making it hard for people to start a business. He said that Beasley would be a “rubber stamp” of the Biden Administration, continuing its policies. 

Regarding abortion, Budd was asked if he supported a total abortion ban, even in the case of rape, incest, or risk to the mother’s life, as Beasley has said he would. 

Budd, a co-sponsor of a measure that would make most abortions illegal after the 15th week of pregnancy, said he has always been pro-life but also supports protecting the mother’s life.

He focused on what he said was the extreme view of the Democrats’ Women’s Health Protection Act.

“She’s (Beasley) a supporter of abortion at any time, for any reason, all the way up to until the moment of birth, and she wants to do that at taxpayer expense, and I think if you check with North Carolinians, you polled the broad spectrum of North Carolinians, that’s wildly out of step with where they are,” he said, repeating that she would be a rubber stamp of any of Biden’s policies.

Beasley responded, saying that women have a constitutionally protected right to make this decision for themselves with their position free from government interference.

“The congressman is very clear and has said that he supports and is leading the charge on an absolute ban on abortion without exceptions for rape, incest, or risk to the mother’s health,” she said. 

“I will support the parameters outlined in Roe which provide for protections and restrictions on abortion later in pregnancy and allow them only in the most severe cases, for instance, when a woman’s life is at risk.

She said she would fight to ensure that Roe versus Wade becomes the law of the land.

North Carolina currently has a 20-week ban on abortion.

 Beasley attempted to reject efforts to align her with the policies of the Biden administration but stopped short of criticizing the president’s policy initiatives or clarifying whether or not she would support those Democrat policies in the Senate.

“It’s wrong to align me with anybody unless I specifically say what my positions are, and I’m glad to talk about my positions because my positions really do support people here in North Carolina.” She said Budd had aligned himself with an extremist like Trump, and that is a reflection on him.

Budd didn’t shy away from his Trump endorsement.

He said the endorsement points to his support of Trump’s policies that led to the 1.4% inflation rate, a 50-year unemployment low for women, people of color, and Hispanics, and those entering the workforce had the fastest growing wages in history. 

Budd said he was unlike his opponent, who has been “running away” from appearances with Biden and would be a rubber stamp for his policies.

Beasley accused Budd of not accepting the results of the 2020 presidential election, which he voted against certifying. Budd said that although they didn’t have the necessary votes, he does acknowledge Biden as president but doesn’t like what he is doing to the American people.

Beasley and Budd said they would accept the results of this year’s U.S. Senate election results.

Beasley said that Washington had dropped the ball regarding immigration, acknowledging that the immigration system needs fixing and that the border must be secure but blamed Budd for not doing anything to address the crisis. Budd responded by saying he was in favor of a wall and addressed issues with crime and drugs like fentanyl coming over the border and to North Carolina.

Beasley said she is in favor of the legalization of marijuana. On the other hand, Budd said he could support its medical use but stressed that it is a bad idea, which could lead to higher crime rates, and sends the wrong message to children.

Budd pointed out his endorsements from organizations like the North Carolina Fraternal Order of Police. the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association and the North Carolina Troopers Association, who once endorsed Beasley, but now endorse him regarding matters of crime.

“I would encourage your viewers to go out to their websites and take a look at why they support me, read their press releases, look at their history with Miss Beasley, including throwing out indictments for sex offenders and defending cop killers.”

Beasley said she had been endorsed by sheriffs and law enforcement across the state, many of whom she worked with over the years as a judge.

National security and healthcare issues were also discussed.

Green Party candidate Matthew Hoh and Libertarian candidate Shannon Bray didn’t appear in the debate but were interviewed beforehand. 

The General Election is on Tuesday, November 8.