The North Carolina Police Benevolent Association announced Wednesday that the group is endorsing Republican Congressman Ted Budd in the race for U.S. Senate. The announcement means the NCPBA is switching from its prior support of Budd’s opponent, Democrat Cheri Beasley, whom the group supported in her 2020 race for N.C. Supreme Court chief justice. She lost that race to Republican Paul Newby by 401 votes.

The NCPBA said the switch was because they considered Budd the best candidate to support law enforcement efforts.

“Based on the committee’s recommendations and a board vote, the PBA is endorsing Ted Budd for U.S. Senate because we believe a vote for Ted Budd is a vote for the men and women of law enforcement and the citizens they serve.” David Rose of the NCPBA said in a statement. “Ted Budd understands the risks and dangers law enforcement officers face every day here in N.C., or at the U.S. southern border, which now impacts all 100 counties in N.C. With violent crime on the rise in North Carolina, more than ever before, we need a Senator who has our backs and not someone who is supported by Defund the Police activists. We endorse Ted Budd for U.S. Senate because he’s the best choice for N.C.”

The latest announcement follows the news in early August that the N.C. Troopers Association would endorse Budd as well.

Beasley has taken heat for associating with current members of Congress, like Cori Bush, D-Missouri, who actively call to defund the police. Beasley’s campaign has tried to distance her from “defund” positions, but that has proven difficult as Republicans point to her judicial opinions, saying she is also soft on crime.

Two weeks after Budd’s trooper endorsement, the Beasley campaign launched an endorsement group called “Law Enforcement for Beasley.” She appeared in a Durham press conference with some local law enforcement officials, including the sheriffs of Durham and Franklin counties. At that event she vowed to work with Republicans to secure federal funding for officer training, mental health intervention, and to protect due process for officers.

Cheri Beasley ‘s Durham press conference. 2022. Source: Cheri Beasley campaign

“For over two decades, I partnered closely with law enforcement to hold violent offenders accountable, and I know their service and sacrifice to our community,” Beasley said. “In Washington, I’ll continue to stand with law enforcement to keep our communities safe, just like I did as judge.”

Effective and supported law enforcement is a growing voter issue amid surging crime rates in North Carolina and nationwide. A story about Asheville’s 31% increase in crime, twice the national average, made national news earlier this month. In an August poll from Pew Research, 60% of voters overall considered crime a major issue as they head into election season, 52% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans.

Government shutdowns during COVID spiked mental illness and crime rates. According to the FBI almost 18,000 Americans were murdered in 2020 — a 30% increase over 2019. It is a trend that disproportionately affects communities of color, and experts say the problem should be addressed with more intensive community policing, not less.

With the election just seven weeks away, Beasley is forced to step into the discussion after laying low on the issue and focusing her campaign instead on the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. However, her comments as N.C. chief justice, openly supporting rioters in the 2020 violent reaction to the death of George Floyd, are contributing to law enforcement support of Budd.

“These protests are a resounding national chorus of voices whose lived experiences reinforce the notion that black people are ostracized, cast aside, and dehumanized,” she said in a 2020 video statement from the courtroom of the state’s highest court. “It is shocking to see our workplaces, businesses, and community spaces damaged, but we must recognize the legitimate pain and years of disparate treatment that fuels these demonstrations.”

Budd’s campaign emphasizes that as a congressman, he wrote legislation to double the federal penalties for rioting, pushed to make assaulting a police officer a deportable offense, and worked to hold sanctuary cities and lawless cities accountable for crimes committed in “autonomous zones.”

Beasley’s campaign is highlighting her time as a public defender, working to “make courts more accessible, equitable, and transparent for all.”

Early voting for the Senate race begins on Oct. 20. Election Day is Nov. 8. Check here to find your sample ballot.