Update: On Tuesday evening, Erica Smith lost the North Carolina Democratic senate race to Cal Cunningham. Final polls show that Cunningham, a former state legislator and army veteran, took home over 50% of the vote. Cunningham will face off against Republican Senator Thom Tillis in the November senate race.
This story was originally published on March 3, 2020 at 1:30 pm.
Candidates for Congress like Jessica Cisneros in Texas remind us that there’s more to Super Tuesday than just the presidential primary elections — there’s a lot more at stake. Like Cisneros, there’s another Democrat trying to come out on top in today’s ballots. In North Carolina, Erica Smith hopes to challenge Republican incumbent Senator Thom Tillis in November, though she would first have to defeat the more moderate and established party candidate Cal Cunningham on Super Tuesday.
Smith is up against four other candidates (including Cunningham) for the job in the Democratic primary where voting takes place on Tuesday across the state. Currently, she represents Senate District 3, the rural, northeastern part of North Carolina, and is in her third term of being a state senator. During her time as Senator, she’s worked to pass legislation that improves the lives of children and families, specifically focusing on policies such as health care, gun control, environmental protection, and economic inequality.
This campaign cycle, Smith has rejected corporate political action committee (PAC) donations and has followed what is now a popular trend from presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Congressional candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by being all people powered. Smith says that she wants to “represent all citizens of North Carolina, not the interests of private corporations” and for that reason, “her votes are not for sale.”
So, who exactly is the Senator taking seeking to take on issues across both political parties? Smith, originally not interested in politics as a career path, attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University for undergraduate school, and then Howard for her M.A. She was first elected to the Senate Chamber of the North Carolina General Assembly in 2015, and has been serving as Senator since. Before then, she worked as an engineer, a minister, and a public school teacher.
Self-described on her campaign site as “a proud homegrown North Carolinian,” she says she has “what it takes to unite our state and to bridge the gap between our rural and urban communities as an advocate for a bright future for us all.” Smith says that she wants to win the election to become even more of an advocate for our rural citizens, create economic partnerships with urban centers, expand expansion high-speed internet and thus access to resources across all regions of North Carolina, and increase access to equitable healthcare.
Smith also said she’s running for Senator “because our delegation in Washington is not putting the people of North Carolina first.” Her hopes include that she’ll be able to “move beyond party politics to create policy and economic initiatives to ensure that workers can find jobs, fair wages and growth opportunities.”
The candidate challenging incumbent Tillis made headlines several weeks ago for television and radio ads paid for and boosted by Faith and Power, a PAC with ties to Republicans. The PAC spent more than $1.9 million to influence the Democratic primary in North Carolina, aiming to boost Smith’s likelihood of winning over Tillis. Should Smith win, she’d be taking North Carolina back into the hands of Democrats, since Tillis took office in 2015.