Jackson is out

Published December 16, 2021

By Thomas Mills

Jeff Jackson is out. The state senator announced this morning that he’s dropping his bid for the Democratic nomination for the U. S. Senate seat being vacated by Richard Burr. In leaving the race, he announced his endorsement of former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, Cheri Beasley. It’s good for Democrats. 

Jackson’s road to the nomination was always tough, if not impossible. He was running against an African American woman with a stellar political resume and respect across the state. In the Democratic primary, women make up 60% or more of the electorate and African Americans make up about 40%. In a multi-candidate primary, the winner only needs 30% of the vote. Beasley was quickly consolidating that vote and with Erica Smith’s exit to run for retiring Congressman G. K. Butterfield’s seat, his path got even tougher. His only real hope for victory was Beasley and Smith splitting both the African American and women’s vote, both of which were probably pipe dreams anyway. 

All of that said, Jackson proved himself as a candidate. He put together a very strong effort that especially mobilized younger voters. He traveled the state, visiting all 100 counties. He surely made valuable long-term political connections and impressed more than a few people. His social media campaign reached across the state and beyond. He clearly knows how to communicate, at least with Democratic voters.

 I suspect we will see more of Jackson. He could run for his old state senate seat, but that would throw Mecklenburg County Democratic politics into a bit of turmoil. State Representative Rachel Hunt, former Governor Jim Hunt’s daughter, has already announced for that seat. Unless she’s willing to reconsider and run for re-election to her House seat, which also has announced candidates, that sets up a primary that could be very divisive. 

Jackson made the right decision both for himself and for the party. Cheri Beasley was always going to be the Democratic nominee. By bowing out now, Jackson allows her to begin building for the general election while Republicans beat each other up during a nasty primary fight. He certainly has built some goodwill with Beasley and other Democratic establishment types. He also has full bank account that will allow him to help other Democrats running in tough races, while holding onto enough to finance another run if the opportunity arises. And I’m relatively certain that opportunity will.