Legislators, prominent Democrats mostly backing one US Senate candidate, records show

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At least eight current and recent state legislators have donated in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, but most aren’t giving to their two legislative colleagues in the race.

Instead, the lawmakers are backing former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley — along with many of the Democratic Party’s best-known donors, campaign finance records show.

Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, and former Sen. Erica Smith, D-Northampton, haven’t drawn much financial support from the folks they work with in the General Assembly.

Beasley, by contrast, lists contributions from Sens. Kirk deViere, D-Cumberland, Michael Garrett, D-Guilford, Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, and Reps. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, Brian Turner, D-Buncombe, Verla Insko, D-Orange, and Marcia Morey, D-Durham.

Former Sen. Terry Van Duyn, who ran for lieutenant governor last year, made a small contribution to Smith in January but is backing Beasley with a $5,800 contribution.

For me, what distinguishes Cheri Beasley is she has the servant’s heart,” Van Duyn said. “She brings a perspective coming from the judiciary that is uniquely important at this time.”

The former senator had only positive things to say about Jackson and Smith. “Their politics totally align with mine,” she said. “I would happy if any of the three of them won the election, but for me personally, Cheri is doing it for the right reasons.”

Jackson’s campaign didn’t respond to an inquiry about his lack of legislative donors.

His donor list includes several other recognizable names, including businessman Kevin Trapani, Charlotte businessman and former state Senate candidate Chad Stachowicz, Novant Health Chief Operating Officer Jeff Lindsay, and Mark Benton, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Smith’s campaign notes that her former General Assembly colleagues have been supportive. In addition to donations from Van Duyn and Sen. Don Davis, D-Pitt, Rep. Kandie Smith, D-Pitt, and Sen. Valerie Foushee, D-Orange, both spoke at her campaign kickoff in March.

None, however, have made formal endorsements.

“We’ve always known she’s not the favorite candidate of the political establishment — in Raleigh or D.C. — and we can live with that,” campaign spokesman Morris Katz said. “We’re going to keep doing the work of talking to voters and building support across the state as we continue with our 100-county tour and direct voter engagement.”

While most of Smith’s backers have been small-dollar donations, she’s had several contributions from bigger names: Actress and activist Susan Sarandon, Los Angeles Lakes owner Johnny Buss and former congressional candidate Christian Cano.

Beasley’s first campaign finance report features a lengthy list of notable Democrats in North Carolina: Former N.C. Democratic Party chairwoman Patsy Keever, UNC law professor Gene Nichol, former Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, former Raleigh mayor Smedes York, former News & Observer publisher Frank Daniels Jr., Public Policy Polling owner Dean Debnam, former Court of Appeals judge and ACLU legal director Chris Brook, investment manager Sallie Shuping Russell and Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson.

Out-of-state donors include LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Massachusetts venture capitalist Joseph Alsop, Florida hedge fund executive Donald Sussman and the co-creator of the TV sitcom “Friends,” Marta Kauffman.

Rep. Brian Turner is among the other legislators backing Beasley, and he says it’s the first time he’s endorsed or donated in a Democratic primary.

“I realized we need to put our best candidate forward if we want to win this critically important election and I couldn’t stand on the sidelines,” he said. “Cheri has won two statewide elections so she has a track record of success, as the chief justice she showed strong leadership in managing the AOC and the pandemic, and she has a lifetime of public service.”

GOP donors split among Senate candidates

North Carolina’s most prominent Republican campaign donors appear to be mostly split between former Gov. Pat McCrory and U.S. Rep. Ted Budd — and some are giving to multiple candidates to hedge their bets.

The latest batch of campaign finance reports detail who’s donating to U.S. Senate campaigns, and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker has fewer recognizable names on his report than his main opponents. McCrory led in second-quarter fundraising overall, followed by Budd and then Walker.

And while a number of state legislators have donated in the Democratic primary — mostly supporting Cheri Beasley — few have jumped into the Republican primary with donations.

Here’s who donated:

McCrory: Former Duke Energy executive and McCrory adviser Tony Almeida, Charlotte developer Ned Curran, Angus Barn restaurant owner Van Eure, investment banker and former UNC Board of Governors chairman John Fennebresque, former legislator and State Board of Education member Phil Kirk, LendingTree founder Doug Lebda, former Charlotte City Councilman Edwin Peacock, retail chain owner (and former McCrory budget director) Art Pope, former McCrory budget director Lee Roberts, Charlotte businessman and sports team owner Felix Sabates, Charlotte hotel chain owner Vinay Patel and Raleigh real-estate firm owner Allen Tate

Budd: Raleigh businessman Cliff Benson, retired NASCAR driver Richard Childress, former N.C. Republican Party vice-chair Miriam Chu, beer distributor Mark Craig, New York businessman Roger Hertog, Raleigh lobbyists Scott Laster and Betsy McCorkle, Raleigh businessman Bob Luddy, Rep. Jeff McNeely, R-Iredell, pork farmer and former legislator Wendell Murphy, UNC Board of Governors Chairman Randy Ramsey, Healthgram CEO David Tate, former N.C. Sen. Jeff Tarte and PayPal founder Peter Thiel

Walker: Students for Trump founder Ryan Fournier, former N.C. Sen. Neal Hunt, Greensboro businessman and former UNC board member Marty Kotis, MyEmployees CEO David Long, former N.C. House candidate Fred Von Canon, Roxboro Police Chief David Hess and Burlington car dealership owner Terry Crenshaw

Both McCrory and Budd: Raleigh developer John Kane, Lumberton businessman and Golden LEAF Foundation board chairman Murchison “Bo” Biggs

Both Walker and Budd: Raleigh developer Jim Anthony, Winston-Salem investment banker and Republican National Committee member Ed Broyhill

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