Here are the candidates running for U.S. Senate in North Carolina in 2022
Last updated Nov. 23, 2021
The 2020 election results were barely finalized by the time the 2022 U.S. Senate race in North Carolina started heating up.
The race will be closely watched nationwide since North Carolina is a perennial swing state. Even though 2020 saw Republican Sen. Thom Tillis reelected and Donald Trump come out on top in North Carolina, Democratic Gov Roy Cooper won reelection.
Adding to the buzz in North Carolina: There won’t be an incumbent on the ballot. GOP Sen. Richard Burr is retiring, leading to a wide-open primary not just for Democrats but Republicans.
Formal filing hasn’t yet begun, but here are the folks we know of who’ve already thrown their hats into the ring. Note: We have not included candidates who do not have a visible presence online, since the formal filing deadline has not passed.
Cheri Beasley is the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court — and the first Black woman to have the job. The longtime jurist was previously an associate justice and also served on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Beasley, who was appointed to the chief justice bench by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in 2019, narrowly lost a race to keep the job in 2020 to Republican Paul Newby. Beasley announced her bid in April 2021.
Chrelle Booker is the mayor pro tempore in the Polk County town of Tryon. Her campaign states she's the only woman of color to be elected to the Tryon Town Council since the town's incorporation more than 130 years ago. Her primary issues as a Senate candidate include working toward equity and equality, creating an online voting system, the introduction of artificial intelligence and other emerging technology to young students to prepare them for the future, improved family medical leave, mandatory training for gun owners, legalization of medical marijuana and raising the minimum wage, according to her campaign website.
Keith Davenport declared he was running for Senate and launched a fundraiser on GoFundMe. As of July 4, 2021, his campaign site and campaign Facebook pages were inactive, though he was still tweeting @Davenport4POTUS. According to Ballotpedia, he ran for president as a Republican in 2020.
Ava Edwards is a pharmacist running as a progressive Democrat. She has not held elected office before. Edwards' priorities include Medicare for all, more funding for schools and job creation. She announced her candidacy in March.
Jeff Jackson (no longer a candidate)
Jeff Jackson is a state senator from Charlotte whose profile has risen in recent years, especially through updates he provided during the coronavirus crisis. The attorney and Army National Guard member has been in the state Senate since 2014. He had planned on running for the U.S. Senate in 2020 but ultimately decided against it. Jackson announced his new bid in January 2021 but, in December, dropped out and endorsed Beasley.
Tobias LaGrone is a small business owner, pastor and counselor who identifies as a conservative, pro-life Democrat. His platform includes what he calls "new day legislation" focusing on access to tech data, transparency in hiring, increasing tax credits for child care and education, and the establishment of a national law enforcement malpractice registry. He announced his bid in March 2021.
Rett Newton is the mayor of Beaufort, on North Carolina’s coast. The retired Air Force officer told the News & Observer that he was inspired to run for higher office after seeing the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, calling it a “domestic terror attack in the house of our democracy.” He announced his bid in April 2021.
Erica Smith (no longer a candidate)
Erica Smith is a former state senator who represented the coastal District 3 in the General Assembly from 2015 to early 2021. This is Smith’s second bid for the U.S. Senate. In 2020, she came in second in the Democratic primary to Cal Cunningham, who went on to lose to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis in November. Smith announced her bid in January 2021. In November 2021, Smith ended her bid for the Senate to instead run for a U.S House seat in eastern North Carolina.
Richard Watkins of Durham is a scientist who got his Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from UNC Chapel Hill. The CEO and founder of the Science Policy Action Network Inc. hasn’t held public office before but ran unsuccessfully in the 2018 Democratic primary for North Carolina’s 4th Congressional District. Watkins told the News & Observer that “people are expecting science to lead,” especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. He announced his bid in March 2021.
Jennifer Banwart is a former U.S. Defense Department employee in Raleigh who’s running for Senate as a Republican. She announced her bid in spring 2021. She says she is self-financing her campaign to meet the signing threshold and wants to make federal elections “more approachable and equitable,” especially for first-time candidates. She has a three-tiered system for how she wants Congress to prioritize its duties.
U.S. Rep. Ted Budd is a member of Congress who has represented North Carolina’s 13th District since 2017. The district includes Rowan County in the Charlotte metro area. Budd’s campaign is expected to focus on immigration, religious liberty and the economy. He announced his bid in April 2021.
In June 2021, former President Trump endorsed Budd.
Marty Cooke is a Brunswick County commissioner. The Shallotte Republican announced his bid in May. Cook says his top priorities include providing better benefits for military service members and veterans, protecting the Second Amendment and being “unapologetically pro-life.”
Marjorie K. Eastman
Marjorie Eastman is a combat veteran and former intelligence officer who announced her candidacy in October 2021. Her top priorities are foreign and domestic security, economic recovery and educational quality. Eastman said she decided to run for Senate after the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Kenneth Harper is a Greensboro business owner in the insurance industry. He announced his bid in May, promoting what he calls “the Republican difference,” which he says includes finding common ground with neighbors, revitalization and “healing the hearts and the minds of North Carolinians.”
Pat McCrory was North Carolina’s governor from 2012-2016 and Charlotte’s mayor from 1995-2009. He’s the longest-serving mayor in the Queen City’s history. After narrowly losing his 2016 reelection bid to Democrat Roy Cooper, McCrory returned to Charlotte and began hosting a political talk show on WBT radio. A major factor in his 2016 loss was H.B. 2, known across the country as “the bathroom bill, which he signed into law. The law, among other things, required people in public buildings to use bathrooms that corresponded with the sex on their birth certificates and caused widespread backlash. He announced his bid in April 2021.
Mark Walker is a former congressman who represented North Carolina’s 6th U.S. House District from 2015-2021. The district includes the Triad cities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point. The former pastor decided not to run for reelection to the House in 2020. He had previously considered challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis in the 2020 primary but backed out after former President Trump endorsed Tillis. Walker announced his bid in December 2020.
Kimrey Rhinehardt is a former Republican who left her party in after extremist supporters of then-President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in January. She decided to run for Senate independently and is trying to collect the more-than-83,000 signatures from voters needed to appear on the ballot. Reinhardt announced her bid in March. Her campaign site didn’t list specific policy platforms as of July 12, 2021, but said she would “say no to loyalty oaths to any political party or political figure.”
Brenda Rodriguez is reportedly running for Senate. Rodriguez’ campaign website was down as of July 12, 2021, but Twitter and LinkedIn accounts listed her as running. Those accounts did not list any policies or platforms.
We’ll update this story as more people announce bids.