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Foushee dominates Democratic primary in NC 4th Congressional District

Valerie Foushee Primary Night 051722.jpg
Rusty Jacobs, WUNC
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State Sen. Valerie Foushee, left, looking confident, with her campaign manager, Anna Dunn, and her political director, Aaron Thomas, on May 17, 2022, shortly before the 4th Congressional District Democratic primary would be called for her.

State Sen. Valerie Foushee easily won the Democratic nomination to run for North Carolina's 4th Congressional District, the seat being vacated by longtime progressive Rep. David Price.

Foushee now has the clear edge for the November General Election in a safely blue district that includes liberal bastions like Chapel Hill in Orange County, and all of Durham County.

According to unofficial results, Foushee got more than 46 percent of the vote, compared with 36-plus percent for runner-up, Nida Allam.

Results won't be official until after the 10-day canvas period during which county elections boards certify the results, finish processing and counting properly post-marked mail-in ballots and conduct hand-counts of ballots from randomly selected precincts.

The Democratic primary for the 4th turned into a battle of an upstart progressive against a more-established candidate backed by big outside money.

Allam is the first Muslim woman elected to office in North Carolina, winning a seat on the Durham County Board of Commissioners in 2020. She also worked on Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign.

Allam has been endorsed by key progressives, including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and picked up the endorsement of the People's Alliance, an influential grassroots group, in Durham.

Foushee alienated some progressives after staunchly pro-Israel groups backed her campaign with big dollars, though she did get the endorsement of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.

The money she got from outside donors dwarfed that of Allam. After getting more than $150,000 from AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Progressive Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party pulled its support of Foushee. The progressive group said it did so because AIPAC had supported Republicans in Congress that opposed certifying Pres. Joe Biden's electoral victory in 2020.

A progressive Democrat in the state House, Rep. Marcia Morey, also rescinded her endorsement of Foushee over the support she was getting from outside sources. According to the campaign finance tracking site, opensecrets.org, Foushee received more than $3.4 million from outside groups, including more than $2.1 million from the United Democracy Project, a pro-Israel Super PAC, and more than $290,000 from the Democratic Majority for Israel.

Outside sources funneled a little more than $370,000 in support of Allam's campaign.

In a 2021 Op-Ed for Indy Week, Allam, who has advocated for the human rights of Palestinians under occupation by Israel, apologized for a 2018 Tweet criticizing U.S. policy in support of Israel, in which she admitted to resorting to anti-Semitic tropes.

Based on her victory speech Tuesday night, the harsh criticism from progressive circles certainly seemed to sting Foushee.

"We can all hold our heads high knowing that we ran a good, clean campaign and we were successful in doing that," Foushee told a small but boisterous crowd of family, friends, supporters and staffers. "And I hope that other Democrats will take notice of that, so thank you, my team, I appreciate you all."

Foushee said she believed her 4th Congressional District primary represented a battle of the soul of the Democratic party and that she hoped her victory would be a signal that Democratic candidates "can be both progressive and pragmatic."

But Foushee is as much of a trailblazer as Allam. She was the first African-American woman elected to the Orange County Board of Commissioners. And she has a long record of public service that includes working on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education and a stint in the state House of Representatives before she was appointed to fill out the term of then retiring state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, in 2013.

Rep. Price announced late last year that his 17th term in Congress representing a hard-left-leaning slice of North Carolina would be his last, his 34th year in Washington.

On the Republican side, Courtney Geels, a nurse from Hillsborough, handily beat Durham-based appraiser Robert Thomas, and will face Foushee in the General Election.

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