North Carolina is holding primaries for an open US Senate seat on Tuesday. Polls closed at 7:30 p.m. ET.
The races and the stakes:
Republicans and Democrats are competing to fill a crucial Senate seat in North Carolina following the retirement of GOP Sen. Richard Burr.
The frontrunner in the Republican primary is GOP Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina, who has the coveted endorsement of President Donald Trump and is leading competitors in his party by double digits.
The 14 Republican candidates in the race include former Gov. Pat McCrory, former US Rep. Mark Waller, and Marjorie Eastman, a former consultant.
Budd will face Democrat Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, during the general election on November 8. Beasley ran against 10 other Democratic candidates but has largely cleared the field of serious competition, and out-raised her opponents.
If no candidate wins more than 30% of the vote in their respective primaries, the top two will head to a runoff election on July 26.
Burr is leaving the seat after pledging back in 2016 that his current, third term in Congress would be his last. But in 2020 he also stepped down from his chairmanship over the powerful Intelligence Committee after facing an ethics inquiry over allegations of insider trading. The Department of Justice closed the investigation without bringing any charges, and Burr denied wrongdoing.
The race on Tuesday will be another major test of Trump’s influence in Republican politics. Trump endorsed Budd after his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, said she wouldn’t be entering the GOP primary in North Carolina, one of his first US Senate endorsements in the 2022 cycle.
Budd, who has served the US House since 2017, also owns a gun range and store in Rural Hall, North Carolina. In his Senate race, Budd has forgone participating in debates with his opponents in favor of campaign events. Outside political action committees including the conservative, anti-tax Club For Growth have spent millions of dollars supporting his campaign.
The seat is crucial for both parties given that the Senate’s current breakdown is 50-50 with Democrats holding the majority thanks to a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.
But Biden, Cal Cunningham, the 2020 Democratic nominee for Senate, and Beasley, running for reelection as chief justice, all narrowly lost their statewide elections in 2020, leaving Gov. Roy Cooper as the rare Democrat to win statewide that year.
At this point in the race, election experts predict Budd will prevail in a hypothetical race against Beasley.
Beasley is running a campaign focused on economic issues and civil rights. If she wins in November, she could be the sole Black woman in the Senate since Harris left her seat representing California to serve as vice president. Rep. Val Demings, who is running for the Democratic nomination for US Senate in Florida, could join Beasley if she wins her race against Sen. Marco Rubio.
Beasley, like some other Democratic candidates running in competitive battleground states, has skipped appearing at events alongside Biden and Harris, citing scheduling conflicts. Beasley spurning those events could be a sign of independence, particularly given Biden’s poor approval ratings, which have reached the low 40s.
Beasley opposes expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court but does favor abolishing the current Senate filibuster rules, which set a 60-vote threshold to pass most major legislation in the Senate.