The Senate Leadership Fund released the following statement after the results of the North Carolina Democratic Senate primary were called:
“Cal Cunningham is a calculating politician with his finger in the wind, willing to tell voters anything he thinks they want to hear. Cal’s complete lack of principles is the reason Chuck Schumer was forced to burn $15 million to save Cal from his own primary voters, and it’s the reason Thom Tillis is in a strong position to defeat him in November.” -SLF Communications Director Jack Pandol
FEC filings revealed SLF funded the nearly $3 million Faith and Power PAC media buys to maximize the Democratic divide in North Carolina. SLF President Steven Law called the investment “more successful than we could have imagined,” given Democrats have been forced to expend more than five times SLF’s investment, approaching $15 million. This puts Democratic outside groups on pace to far exceed 2014, previously the most expensive North Carolina Senate race in history, when Democrats spent $29 million *total* in support of Kay Hagan.
Cunningham was also forced to tack left during his primary, including announcing his support for impeachment after dodging the question for months, and admitting he would support Bernie Sanders for President. Cunningham’s public solicitations for outside groups to bail him out also triggered an ethics complaint for illegal coordination, filed earlier today.
Political figures on both sides of the aisle in North Carolina backed SLF’s argument that the investment in Faith & Power PAC was a success in causing Democratic headaches during the primary:
- MaryBe McMillian, President of NC AFL-CIO: “It’s just unfortunate that it’s going to mean spending more resources.”
- Senator Richard Burr: “Cal Cunningham has never won a federal race he’s ran for. To suggest that this is an unbelievable recruit that Chuck Schumer got? He has no proven track record and is not known in the state. Schumer has funded 100 percent of the Cunningham campaign. Why would they complain if somebody else funded the opponent?”
- Harrison Hickman, consultant for former Senator John Edwards: Republicans were “astute” in boosting Smith because what an unknown candidate “needs more than anything else is name recognition and popularity.”
- Gary Pearce, Democratic strategist: Cunningham’s lead is “no sure thing.”
- Quentin James, co-founder of Collective PAC: “It’s unfortunate that a qualified black woman wasn’t given the same kind of consideration that a white [male candidate], but that’s what our politics are in the Democratic Party.” He criticized Democrats for using “lazy polling to support a white man over a black woman in a state as diverse as North Carolina.”
- Martha McKenna, former IE Director of the DSCC: “With these Senate races requiring tens of millions of dollars” in campaign spending, she said, candidates can’t afford to fight off a primary challenge that could cost additional millions. Not having a primary challenge “just makes a world of difference.”
- Mac McCorkle, Duke University professor: “It still may put her above water, and it could be a competitive race.”