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2022 midterm elections in North Carolina: Breaking down statewide races

Graphic that reads "North Carolina Statewide Races 2022"
Elizabeth Baier

WUNC has all the coverage you need this election season. Be sure to check out our Races To Watch stories for everything you need to know about candidates in statewide, congressional and legislative elections. Subscribe to WUNC's Politics Podcast and follow reporters Rusty Jacobs and Jeff Tiberii on Twitter. Early voting begins on Oct. 20.

On North Carolina’s horizon is a consequential midterm, which is headlined by an open U.S. Senate seat, and underscored in-part by races that will determine party control of the state Supreme Court.

Open U.S. Senate seats are uncommon in North Carolina. The last time such a race happened here was 18 years ago. But it is the second straight election cycle where North Carolinians are voting in a U.S. Senate race. In 2020 — in a race that broke the state record for U.S. Senate fundraising — incumbent Thom Tillis, a Republican, held off a challenge from Democrat Cal Cunningham.

It’s also the second straight election cycle that seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court are on the ballot. In 2020, Cheri Beasley was the incumbent Chief Justice, but lost in an extremely narrow race to Republican Paul Newby – opening the door for Beasley to run for the U.S. Senate seat that is open due to Richard Burr’s retirement.

Here’s everything you need to know about the statewide races in North Carolina this year.

U.S. Senate

Kate Medley
for WUNC
Cheri Beasley at a campaign event at Durham Technical Community College on July 28, 2022. Beasley is running for election to the U.S. Senate to represent North Carolina.
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Lynn Hey
for WUNC
Ted Budd, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, holds a round table discussion with local Law Enforcement during a campaign stop on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 in Kernersville, N.C. (Lynn Hey/WUNC

  • Cheri Beasley (D)
  • Tedd Budd (R)
  • Shannon Bray (L)
  • Matthew Hoh (G)

The race to replace Richard Burr is between sitting Republican Congressman Ted Budd and a former Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court — Cheri Beasley, a Democrat. Both parties view the race as crucial to who controls the Senate in the next Congress, though it might be more pertinent to a Republican majority. There is also a Libertarian, Shannon Bray, and a Green Party candidate, Matthew Hoh, who both serve as possible spoilers in a potentially tight race.

The winner replaces the retiring Burr, who — at three terms — is now North Carolina’s longest serving Senator since Jesse Helms.

Beasley and Budd have for months largely avoided doing interviews with the news media. Beasley has regularly stayed clear of any stage that included President Joe Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris. Notably, Beasley did not attend either event held by Harris in the Tar Heel State in July or September.

Meanwhile, Budd has spent little — if any — time talking about what he would do as a U.S. senator, instead opting to repeatedly frame his opponent as a radical leftist. Taking a shot back at Budd, N.C. Democratic Party spokeswoman Kate Frauenfelder recently called Budd “an election denier.” And indeed, Budd did vote against certifying Electoral College votes for Biden.

While Beasley has shied away from closely aligning herself with Biden or Harris, Budd has embraced support from former President Donald Trump, recently appearing at one of Trump’s rallies in Wilmington. Trump previously endorsed Budd in the crowded primary for the Republican nomination. That — and some key financial support from the conservative super PAC Club for Growth — helped Budd beat former Governor Pat McCrory, former Congressman Mark Walker, and political newcomer Marjorie Eastman, in the primary.

Beasley and Budd have agreed to an Oct. 7 debate hosted by Spectrum News. As of Oct. 4, Bray and Hoh have not received invitations to participate. Hoh is publicly petitioning to be included.

NC Supreme Court

  • Seat 3: Lucy Inman (D) vs. Richard Dietz (R)
  • Seat 5: Sam Ervin (D) vs. Trey Allen (R)

Despite the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court being a Republican, Democrats still hold a 4-3 majority on North Carolina’s highest court. That could change with this election.
Two seats, currently held by Democrats, are up for grabs. Robin Hudson is retiring, creating an opening in Seat 3, while incumbent Sam Ervin is up for re-election in Seat 5.

 Republican Richard Dietz (left) and Democrat Lucy Inman (right) are running for the third seat on North Carolina's Supreme Court.
Campaign Photos
Republican Richard Dietz (left) and Democrat Lucy Inman (right) are running for the third seat on North Carolina's Supreme Court.
 Democrat Sam Ervin (left) is up for re-election to the NC Supreme Court, but is facing a challenge from Republican Trey Allen (right).
Campaign Photos
Democrat Sam Ervin (left) is up for re-election to the NC Supreme Court, but is facing a challenge from Republican Trey Allen (right).

Ervin — who has served on the court since 2015 — is facing a challenge from Republican Trey Allen, a UNC-Chapel Hill professor and a former clerk for Chief Justice Paul Newby, who appointed Allen as general counsel for the state Administrative Office of the Courts. Allen won in a three-candidate primary over April Wood, a justice on the state Court of Appeals, and Lexington-based lawyer Victoria Prince.

Hudson, 70, is calling it quits early. The Democrat is approaching mandatory retirement due to age restrictions on the state's highest court. If Hudson ran for reelection in this cycle, she would have to retire just 14 months into her next term, making her seat open again in early 2024.

Rather than go through the rigors of another election season to extend her stay on the court by less than two years, Hudson is stepping away now. Battling it out for her seat is Democrat Lucy Inman and Republican Richard Dietz, both of whom are current judges on the Court of Appeals.

Inman is a graduate of N.C. State and UNC School of Law and was in private practice for 18 years before former Gov. Bev Perdue appointed her to the Superior Court in 2010. She’s served on the Court of Appeals since 2014. She previously unsuccessfully ran for a state Supreme Court seat in 2020, losing to Phil Berger Jr. Inman is also the granddaughter of former White House Press Secretary Jonathan Daniels.

Like Inman, Dietz has also served on the Court of Appeals since 2014 after an appointment by former Gov. Pat McCrory. He’s a graduate of Shippensburg University in his native state of Pennsylvania, and Wake Forest School of Law. Dietz was a law clerk in Virginia, a research fellow in Japan, and worked in private practice in Washington, D.C. and North Carolina. If elected, he would be the court’s current youngest justice at 45 years old.

Democrats need to win both races to retain a majority of seats on the bench. If a Republican wins either race, the court would shift right.

And in the next couple of years, the court — whatever its make-up — is likely to weigh-in on elections, redistricting, abortion and education funding.

Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. His past work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and is also a voter in the AP Top 25 poll for women's college basketball.
Jeff Tiberii covers politics for WUNC. Before that, he served as the station's Greensboro Bureau Chief.