WASHINGTON — North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis got another Democratic challenger for his 2020 re-election bid Monday when former North Carolina State Senator Cal Cunningham announced his decision to drop his campaign for run for lieutenant governor and seek the Senate seat instead.
Cunningham, an Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran, took direct aim at Tillis in his announcement video, saying the first-term incumbent is “part of the problem” and is standing in the way of progress for North Carolinians. He also said he’ll “go places that Democrats don’t always go” during his campaign. Cunningham ran for Senate once before in 2010, but finished second in the Democratic primary.
Cunningham’s announcement news follows leaked internal polling from President Trump’s 2020 campaign that showed him losing North Carolina to former Vice President Joe Biden by eight points — signaling North Carolina could become a state to watch up and down the ballot in 2020. Tillis won the Senate seat in 2014 when he defeated Democratic Sen. Kay Hagen by just 1.7 points. And both Trump and Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper won the state in 2016.
Tillis is facing entrepreneur Sandy Smith and businessman Garland Tucker III in the GOP primary. Cunningham joins Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller and state senator Erica Smith in the Democratic race.