Democratic Primary Candidates for US Senate

Jeff Jackson

            Jeff Jackson is presently serving his fourth term in the North Carolina Senate, to which he was first elected in 2014. He represents Senate District 37, which is the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. He is 2009 graduate of the UNC School of law and is an attorney in private practice in Charlotte. He received an undergraduate degree from Emory University.

            Jackson is 38 years old and married with three children. He is an Army veteran, having served one tour in Afghanistan and is currently a captain in the Army National Guard.

            According to Jackson’s web site, he “helped lead the fight against gerrymandering, stood against discriminatory legislation like HB2, supported investments in early childhood education, repeatedly called for raising teacher pay and expanding Medicaid, passed reforms for our criminal justice system, and called out corruption when he saw it.”


Cheri Beasley

Cheri Beasley is a private practice attorney, following a long career in the judiciary. Her career began in 1999 as a district court judge, where she served until she was elected to the NC Court of Appeals in 2008. She joined the NC Supreme Court in 2012 and was re-elected in 2014.

In 2019, she became the first black chief justice of the NC Supreme Court when she was elevated to the position by Gov. Roy Cooper. Her service on the High Court ended in 2020, when she lost the race for chief justice to Paul Newby, a Republican, by 401 votes.

            Beasley holds degrees from Rutgers University and the University of Tennessee College of Law.

            She is 55 years old, married and has twin sons.

            According to Beasley’s web site, she “has seen how Washington only responds to the well-connected, whether on health care, education or the ability to find work that supports a family and retire with dignity. She is running for Senate to fight for all North Carolinians.”


Erica Smith
Erica Smith is a former mechanical engineer, Baptist minister and state senator representing state Senate Dist. 3 in northeast North Carolina. She grew up on her family’s farm in Fayetteville, then earned a scholarship to North Carolina A&T University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. She also holds a master’s degree in religious studies from Howard University.

Smith served in the NC State Senate from 2015 to 2021. In the 2020 Democratic primary election, she finished second to nominee Cal Cunningham. She is 51 years old, twice divorced and has four children.

            According to her web site, “she wants a government that works for all of us instead of just the wealthy and well-connected. Erica’s fighting to build a North Carolina where it doesn’t matter if you’re white, black or brown, whether you were born in the rural west, the rural east or any of the towns and cities in between.”


Richard L. Watkins

            Richard Watkins is a scientist affiliated with the University of North Carolina and founder and CEO of SPAN, the nonprofit Science Policy Action Network.

Born in Tyler, Texas, but raised in Greensboro, N.C., Watkins in 2014 earned a doctorate from UNC in microbiology and immunology with a specialty in virology. According to his web site, Watkins’s “research focused on the factors that influence disease progression towards AIDS in HIV-infected patients.”

In addition to the doctorate, Watkins, 36, holds a bachelor of science degree in sociology from Fayetteville State University, where he played varsity football. He is married with one child. His wife, Charity, is an associate professor at North Carolina Central University and his father, Richard Watkins Jr., is the golf coach at North Carolina A& T.

            Watkins coordinates the Chancellor’s Science Scholars Program at UNC and serves on the school’s Campus and Community Advisory Committee.

            According to his website, Watkins entered the Senate race “to protect the future of North Carolinians by providing and improving health, safety, opportunity, and equity.”


Rett Newton

Everette “Rett” Newton is the mayor of Beaufort, N.C. on the coast in southeast North Carolina and a retired Air Force colonel with 28 years’ service.

Newton, 60, has a bachelor’s degree in math from Campbell University, where he played basketball on scholarship. He also holds a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from American Military University and is working toward a doctorate in marine science and conservation at Duke University.

In the Air Force following graduation from Campbell, Newton completed pilot training. He later commanded a squadron of F-15 fighters during the 9/11 attack, flying combat missions over the Capitol.

Newton was elected mayor of Beaufort, where he grew up, in 2017. He has been active in environmental cleanups, preserving coastal communities from the effects of climate change and dealing with Covid. His second term ends in December.

He told the Raleigh News and Observer that he was motivated to enter the Senate race by the insurrection of Jan. 6.

“I am in this race because our democracy in under attack and certainly the Trump family, Trump supporters are part of that attack on our democracy,” he told the RNO.


Tobias LaGrone

            Dr. Tobias LaGrone describes himself as a “small business owner, scholar, clinical psycho-therapist, thought leader, senior pastor, public policy analyst and human rights advocate.” But it isn’t clear from his website exactly where he lives, where he came from or what he does for a living.

            His resume says he is the CEO and owner of Behavioral Intelligence Group Inc., which purports to provide clinical psychotherapy services, individual and family counseling and spiritual coaching. But the site doesn’t provide details.

            He says he holds a B.A. in political science from Jackson State University and master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Memphis Theological Seminary. He says he has 33 years of pastoral experience and has been married for 28 years, with one daughter. He does not list his age or wife’s name.

            He calls himself a “pro-life conservative Democrat.”

            “We, as people of faith, do have a right to demand that our tax dollars NOT be used to abort the God-designed destiny of any child, either through abortion, unjustified police shootings, school to prison pipelines or foreign wars for corporate interests.”

LaGrone says he supports “safe communities, livable wages, affordable housing, affordable childcare, job training, fair law enforcement and quality educational opportunities.

Ava Edwards

Ava Edwards says on her website that she is a naturalized citizen but doesn’t say from where. She says she’s married with three children and holds a doctor of pharmacy degree but doesn’t say where she earned the degree. She says she has worked as a pharmacist but doesn’t say if she’s currently employed, in what profession, with what company, or where in North Carolina she lives or works. Her website says she relocated to the state from Minnesota in January 2020. She describes herself as a survivor of “employer retaliation, discrimination and harassment,” identity theft and breast cancer.

Edwards describes herself as a “progressive candidate for the people.” Her website lists positions on wide range of issues from restructuring state and federal government to protecting privacy and “rebuilding our tech economy.” 


Chrelle Booker

Chrelle Booker is mayor pro tempore of Tyron, N.C., a town of just over 1,600 in Polk County on the southeast border of North Carolina. According to her web site, Booker is human resources manager at WGGS-TV and legal compliance administrator for Dove Broadcasting. She is a licensed Realtor and holds an associate’s degree in radio and television broadcasting technology from Isothermal Community College.

Booker is the only woman of color to be elected to the Tyron Town Council in the city’s 136 years and the only woman to be mayor pro tempore of Polk County since 1855.

She believes the first duty of elected officials is service, and she is a strong advocate of diversity, equity and inclusion.

She favors the voting rights legislation under consideration in Congress, believes in paid family leave and is “Pro-Choice but not Pro-Abortion.” She supports the $15 minimum wage and favors background checks, psychological testing, and mandatory firearms training for gun owners.