North Carolina state Sen. Jeff Jackson announced his 2022 bid for Senate on Tuesday, setting up a divisive Democratic primary for the open seat that will be pivotal to the party’s future control of the Senate.
Jackson launched his “100-county campaign” in a video with his wife Marisa and his young sons, who are seen packing their bags in preparation for the months-long contest.
He talked about a “North Carolina agenda” that addresses the pandemic, the unemployed, the opioid crisis, a lack of rural broadband and housing, health care and criminal justice racial disparities. Jackson also nodded to the state’s 2020 election, in which Cal Cunningham, a former state senator and military veteran, lost his race against Republican Sen. Thom Tillis by less than two points after his sex scandal.
“We cannot go through another election like the one we just had,” Marisa said.
“That was miserable,” added Jackson, as one of his kids piles toys into a suitcase. “You deserve better.”
Jackson is a 38-year-old former prosecutor, and a captain in the Army National Guard who served in Afghanistan. Republicans and a Democratic opponent, former state senator Erica Smith, have already tried to label him an echo of Cunningham.
Smith, a Black woman who lost to Cunningham in the last Senate Democratic primary, tweeted on Tuesday, “We cannot continue to go back to the SAME playbook & expect different results.”
“It is time for a new kind of politics & a new kind of leadership. Together, we can bring about the change we need,” she said, adding the hashtags “WinWithBlackWomen” and “EmbraceTheBase.”
In 2019, Jackson flew to meet with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and pitched a grassroots campaign for Senate, including “100 town halls in 100 days,” according to a recording of a talk Jackson gave at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte obtained by National Review. Jackson said he was told he would instead have to spend months in a “windowless basement raising money” to buy attack ads against Tillis.
Jackson’s announcement video showed he still plans on an in-person campaign strategy. But GOP Senate candidate Mark Walker, a former congressman, referred to that article on Tuesday, sarcastically congratulating Jackson for “deciding the ‘windowless basement’ Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wanted him in for 2020 is now appealing for 2022.”
Many candidates are expected to run for the seat left open by Republican Sen. Richard Burr’s coming retirement. Among others, Lara Trump, a North Carolina native and the President’s daughter-in-law, is reportedly considering a Senate campaign.