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**Of Course** I Have Thoughts About Jeff Jackson
Fri., Dec. 17: Jackson bows to the inevitable, sparing Cheri Beasley a six-month grind.
» Why Jeff Jackson Left the Senate Race
Because I’m a horrible person, when I first learned that state Sen. Jeff Jackson was abandoning the Senate primary, I wondered if a dead-girl-live-boy scandal was about to break.
None has, of course. (Maybe I’m cynical?) But the more I chewed it over, the more sense his decision made. He saw checkmate coming 25 moves out and saved everyone the trouble.
» He wasn’t going to win the primary.
At least, he was very unlikely to win. And winning would have required him to burn bridges. Ultimately, the prize wasn’t worth the risk.
Accept that premise, and the logic follows.
Jackson was running about 14 points behind former Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, according to Beasley’s internals. (I’d wager Jackson’s were similar.) Her support was built on overwhelming strength among Black voters—and Jackson wasn’t going to make up that deficit.
Beasley was also beating Jackson in fundraising and endorsements.
Several weeks ago, Jackson’s advisers told him he couldn’t win without going negative. He told Axios Charlotte that was a nonstarter.
“We decided not to do that,” Jackson, a state senator, said. “Not because I have a particular problem being critical when I think it’s fair, but just in her case, it would not have been honest.”
» Going negative would be bad for him, too.
Jackson is 39. This wasn’t his last hurrah. Consider these two scenarios:
He wins dirty by burning through millions of dollars slinging mud at Beasley, who is vying to be the only Black woman in the Senate, before counting on Black turnout to defeat the Republican candidate, probably U.S. Rep. Ted Budd.
He loses dirty, forcing Beasley to burn through millions of dollars. Jackson tarnishes the happy-warrior rep he’s spent years developing, and if Beasley loses to Budd, many in the party will blame him.
This way, if Beasley wins, Jackson’s magnanimity has won his friends and favors all over the state. If she loses, well, you can hardly blame him, right? And—sorry, libs— she’s more likely than not to lose.
I suspect Jackson would have been a slightly stronger general election candidate, but that’s beside the point.
All indications are that next year will be a very bad environment for Democrats.
If that’s the case, neither Beasley nor Jackson can beat Budd (or Pat McCrory).
That’s not to say Budd (or McCrory) can’t beat himself, however. (Remember the “legitimate rape” guy?)
» What’s next?
Dallas Woodhouse claimed last night that Jackson is trying to grease the wheels for his future ambitions.
Big grain of salt—I’m suspicious that plugged-in Dems are handing out scoops to the ex-NCGOP director turned Carolina Journal reporter—but this theory doesn’t sound implausible to me.
Jackson wouldn’t be sucking up to “the party,” per see, but rather to Roy Cooper’s machine, which helped Josh Stein become AG and will soon try to make him governor.
It’s likely 2024 will be a more promising year for North Carolina Democrats than 2022; if Team Cooper’s money and machinery align with Jackson early enough to make the primary a cakewalk, the AG’s race could be a good landing spot.
» Alternative histories
If you’ll recall, Jackson was reportedly the Washington Dems’ first choice in 2020, but Jackson turned it down because he objected to the fundraising requirements. So the party turned to Cal Cunningham, and we all know how that turned out.
I suspect Cunningham poisoned the well for Jackson. The state’s Democrats have little appetite for another white lawyer dude who served in the military running for Senate, even if this white lawyer dude who served in the military is an upgrade over the last.