NC Senate hopefuls Beasley, Budd debate abortion, crime, inflation
With control of the United States Senate potentially at stake, the two major party candidates for North Carolina's open seat squared off Friday night in a Raleigh cable television studio in what could be their only debate.
The debate between the Democrat, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, and the Republican, Congressman Ted Budd, wasn't raucous. Neither candidate is a fiery speaker. But Beasley repeatedly accused Budd of getting little done in three terms as a Congressman.
"He's just talking. Actions really do speak louder than words. And Congressman Budd is not working for North Carolina," she said.
Budd linked Beasley to President Joe Biden at seemingly every opportunity.
"Because Joe Biden is on the ballot on November 8th. And he goes by the name this year of Cheri Beasley because she would be an absolute rubber stamp for everything that's led to this country being on the wrong track," he said.
Budd repeated that phrase, "rubber stamp," at least eight times during the one-hour debate. For her part, Beasley declined to say whether Biden should run again or whether she would even appear on stage with the President if he came to North Carolina to campaign for her.
"President Biden is certainly welcome to be here. He is our president," she said at one point in the debate.
So far, Beasley has avoided opportunities to campaign with members of Biden's administration, and said she'd be an independent voice for the state.
"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," she said.
Beasley countered that Budd, a gun shop and range owner who has campaigned recently with Donald Trump, was too close to the former president, who endorsed him early in the campaign. But Budd repeatedly turned references to Trump into opportunities to hit one of his favorite campaign talking points: The economy.
"Let's remember that President Trump won North Carolina twice," he said. "And let's remember what the economy was like other than this Biden, perhaps even Beasley if she were to win, economy, where we have 40-year inflation. Under President Trump we had 1.4% inflation. We had record low unemployment."
On inflation, Beasley was willing to criticize Biden, but not solely. "I certainly believe that the president and Congress can work a whole lot harder to make sure that prices are being lowered," she said, but with Budd in Congress for six years, "he's partly to blame as well."
Budd also brought up crime, telling moderator Tim Boyum, the Spectrum News political reporter and host of Capital Tonight, that she backed the idea of defunding the police and that in her long service as a judge hadn't been tough enough on criminals.
"Don't take my word for it. Take law enforcement organizations," he said. "At one point, Tim, they had supported Ms. Beasley but now they have supported … me."
Beasley said it wasn't true that she wants to defund law enforcement, and said Budd, who called the January 6 rioters at the Capitol, "just patriots standing up," wasn't supporting the dozens of officers injured there.
"We must fund the police to make sure that they have the resources that they need to keep themselves and our community safe," she said. "We also must invest in community-based violence intervention programs to stop the cycle of violence."
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June removing the Constitutional right to abortion, abortion rights came to the fore in the campaign. Beasley has made opposition to that ruling part of her stump speech. She repeated that position during the debate.
"I will fight to make sure that Roe vs. Wade becomes the law of the land," she said.
Budd, meanwhile, has co-sponsored a bill that would put a nationwide ban on abortions after 15 weeks.
Boyum, the moderator, asked if Budd supported a ban even in the case of rape, incest or risk to a mother's life and what his ideal abortion law would look like. Budd sidestepped the question and turned the focus on Beasley.
"She's a supporter of abortion, at any time, for any reason, all the way up, Tim, until the moment of birth," he said.
Beasley replied that simply wasn't true.
"I will support the parameters outlined in Roe vs. Wade, which provide for protections and restrictions on abortion later in pregnancy and allow them only in the most severe cases," she said. "For instance, when a woman's life is at risk."
With just four weeks left until Election Day, recent polls suggest the race is virtually tied.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.