Politics & Government

Former NC Sen. Cal Cunningham giving ‘serious thought’ to Democratic race for US Senate

Cal Cunningham
Cal Cunningham

Former state Sen. Cal Cunningham said Friday he’s giving “serious thought” to a run for U.S. Senate.

Cunningham, who had been running for lieutenant governor, is expected to switch gears for a Senate run.

“A lot of folks in North Carolina have asked me to think about running for Senate and I’m giving it very serious thought,” Cunningham texted the Observer Friday.

Democrats have been looking for a candidate with name recognition and fundraising ability to run for the seat held by Republican Sen. Thom Tillis. Tillis faces a primary challenge from Raleigh businessman Garland Tucker and Pitt County resident Sandy Smith.

Two other Democrats, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller and state Sen. Erica Smith already have announced. But neither has gained traction with Democratic activists. Former state Sen. Eric Mansfield is expected to run.

National Democrats reportedly have courted other Democrats, including Cunningham, former Treasurer Janet Cowell and state Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte. Former state Treasurer Richard Moore told Spectrum News Friday that he’s also met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about the race but has made no decision.

Meanwhile, some Democrats are convinced Cunningham will run.

“I think he’s going to do it, they’re really pushing,” said Aisha Dew, a state party executive committee member from Charlotte, referring to party activists. “He has the fundraising ability he also has name recognition across the state.”

In his campaign for lieutenant governor, Cunningham reported raising nearly $315,000 through December. In the Democratic Senate race, Fuller reported raising just $24,000 through March. Erica Smith has raised about $17,000. Cunningham could not use money raised for a state race for a federal contest.

Cunningham ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010, losing a primary runoff to Elaine Marshall. She went on to lose to Republican Sen. Richard Burr.

He was student body president at the University of North Carolina after transferring to the school as a sophomore. He finished his dissertation for the London School of Economics while enrolled at Carolina Law and won election to the N.C. Senate at 27.