Fact Check: Do Democrats Lose When National Senate Group Overlooks Black Candidates In NC?

Mar 11, 2020

You generally won't hear North Carolina's political parties endorse a candidate in primary contests, but national groups do. Last week, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's pick won the party's nomination for U.S. Senate. Cal Cunningham beat three other candidates, including Erica Smith, an African American woman who has served three terms in the state legislature.

The DSCC's endorsement of Cunningham prompted liberal activist William Barber to call out the group.

WRAL's Paul Specht joins WFAE "Morning Edition" host Lisa Worf to assess the reverend's claims.

Lisa Worf: So, first, what did Barber tweet?

Paul Specht: Barber tweeted — well, he tweeted several things, first of all. But the key quote comes from a tweet that says, "Every time this has happened" — meaning the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsing someone — "Every time this has happened in the past and the person they did not support was black, the candidate they picked ended up losing in the fall." And that obviously got our attention. 

Worf: And before we get to assessing that, what does it mean to get the support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee? Does it come with money?

Specht: Yes. It is a very powerful campaign committee, and there's another one just like it across the aisle, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and they all come with money. Basically, the powers that be, whether it's Mitch McConnell on one side or Chuck Schumer on the Democratic side, meet with their people and decide who do they want to support, who do they think has the best chance of winning an election in November. For several races now dating back to 2008 and probably beyond, the DSCC has picked favorites, if you will, in North Carolina's Democratic primaries.

Worf: Now, it sounds like Barber had a particular race in mind. You checked with his folks. What did they have to say about that tweet?

Specht: They said that when Barber made that tweet, he was thinking of the 2002 primary between Erskine Bowles, who you may remember from having ties to Bill Clinton, that administration, and Dan Blue, who is black and who is an attorney from Raleigh and now is the minority leader in the state Senate. That was what Barber considered a divisive race in which the DSCC backed Bowles over Blue.

Worf: So, is it true that every time the DSCC has endorsed a candidate in the U.S. Senate primary in North Carolina and overlooked a black candidate that their pick has lost the general election, then?

Specht: It's not. The DSCC does not have a great record, and there's no record of them supporting a black candidate here in the primary. However, they did overlook a black candidate in 2008, and they backed Kay Hagan, and she went on to win not only the primary, but she went on to beat incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole. And so, it is inaccurate for him to ... use the words "every time" as a blanket statement, which is why we rated his claim false.  

These fact checks are a collaboration between WRAL and PolitiFact. You can hear them Wednesdays on WFAE's "Morning Edition."

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