What Will Friday’s Budd-Beasley Debate Show? Two Very Different Candidates.

Cheri Beasley, a former NC Supreme Court chief justice, and US Rep. Ted Budd, will hold their first, and likely only, debate on Friday night. (Photos: left, AP Photo/Ben McKeown, File; right, (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

By Michael McElroy

October 6, 2022

From abortion to climate change, Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Ted Budd offer very different positions on issues that will have huge effects on North Carolinians’ day-to-day lives. 

North Carolina is just weeks away from deciding who will represent it in the US Senate.

Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Ted Budd are neck and neck in the race to replace retiring Sen. Richard Burr. The seat is one of only a few across the country that could help decide which party is in control of Congress, and, consequently, set its agenda. 

Controlling Congress means determining how and even whether the US attempts to solve the biggest problems it’s facing, including the climate crisis, restrictions on reproductive freedom, and the survival of American democracy itself.

That means the stakes for this Senate election are as high as they get, and on Friday at 8 p.m., the candidates will meet for their first, and likely only, debate. (You can watch the debate through Spectrum and follow Cardinal & Pine’s Twitter for live reaction.)

Beasley is a former NC Supreme Court chief justice and Budd is a US Congressman; it seems the only thing they agree on is that they are running in the same election. The debate is sure to highlight the clear divide between them on several policy issues that will have huge effects on North Carolinians’ day-to-day lives. 

Here’s a look at the topics that are sure to come up.


Budd last month co-sponsored a Republican bill in the US House to ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and has sponsored previous bills as well seeking to define life as beginning at conception, which would make practically all abortions illegal. 

The bill has no chance of progressing since Democrats control both the Senate and House. But that could change after the midterm election. Abortion is certainly on the ballot this November.

While Budd has expressed mixed messages about whether he would support exemptions for rape and incest in his ideal anti-abortion bill, he has said that he sees no reason why a woman who was victim of rape would want to contribute to “a second tragedy.”

Budd told WNCN in Raleigh this April that he preferred to “look at it broadly.”

“First of all, when a person finds himself in that type of situation, let’s just admit right up front, regardless of what your political background is or what party you’re with, that it’s a tragedy when somebody finds himself there. And I want to say, why would you want to add a second tragedy to an already very tough situation? I don’t condemn anybody that’s ever been through that. But I want to say let’s not add more tragedy to a very tough situation.”

At a campaign event at NC State last week, Beasley said she would support a national law codifying abortion rights and criticized Budd in a way that may foreshadow her approach during the debate. 

“When women’s lives are on the line and they cannot get the care they need, women will die, and that is absolutely unacceptable,” she said.

“It is important for women to make this decision for themselves with their doctor and there is absolutely no place in the exam room for Congressman Ted Budd.” 

Farms and Climate Change

Beasley has prioritized young voters in her Senate campaign, and aside from abortion, no issue perhaps is as important to this demographic than climate change.

“The reality is your lives are at stake,” Beasley said at the NC State event.

“The climate crisis is impacting all of us, and as we think about the importance of clean air and clean water in all of our communities, we understand that environmental justice is key to health and well- being.” 

Beasley has said she would have voted for the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Democrats this summer, the most significant piece of federal legislation aimed at fighting climate change.

Budd voted against it. 

But young voters are not the only bloc worried about climate change. As shown at the annual Farm Aid concert last month in Raleigh, NC’s small farmers spend much of their time worried about adapting to a rapidly warming climate.

Budd often pitches himself as an advocate for NC farmers, but his record is far more complex. He has voted against several bills that would have helped small farmers in general, and has rejected all federal efforts to address the climate crisis that threatens their existence.

To fight climate change and give the world a chance at avoiding its worst-case effects, farmers will have to adapt. Adaptation, while unavoidable, is not cheap.

Without help, the farmers themselves will bear those costs directly, as will the countless people and industries who depend on the farms for food.

The federal government, Beasley says, needs to provide NC’s small farmers with better access to the resources and funding they need to make their farms more resilient to climate change and to reduce their emissions. 

The Inflation Reduction Act will do both.

NC farms earned nearly $11 billion in 2020, and is the state’s leading industry, but damages associated with climate change could cost the state millions in the agriculture sector alone. A 2006 report estimated that agriculture profits could fall by nearly 25% in North Carolina, and all data shows that warming has accelerated significantly over the last 15 years. As the rate of warming increases, so too will the damages.

Budd voted against the IRA, he said, because it was too expensive.

Election Integrity

The Jan. 6 insurrection was a stain on American democracy, and both Budd and Beasley condemned the rioters in strong terms.

“The mob violence I witnessed at the Capitol on January 6th,” Budd wrote in a news release the next day, “was not representative of our country and I condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”

Yet hours earlier, Budd was one of the nearly 150 US Republicans who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s clear 2020 election victory over Donald Trump.

And in a radio talk show in August, 2021, Budd deflected some of the responsibility away from the Jan. 6 mob. While it remained a “bad day for America,” Budd acknowledged again, the riot in the grand scheme of things, he said, “was nothing.” He added: “It was just patriots standing up.”

Like nearly all Democrats, Beasley has called for protecting US elections and ensuring that nothing like Jan. 6 could ever happen again.

Last month, the US House passed a bill that would shore up many of the provisions in federal election law that Trump sought to exploit in his effort to overturn the election. Budd voted against it.


  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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