Ted Budd and Cheri Beasley, North Carolina’s two major candidates for U.S. Senate held a debate Oct. 7 where they discussed inflation, immigration and health care. The debate was hosted by Spectrum News 1 in Raleigh. 

Budd, a Republican, currently represents the 13th district of North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives. Beasley, a Democrat, served as chief justice in the North Carolina Supreme Court from 2019 to 2020. Both are competing for a soon-to-be vacant Senate seat held by Republican Richard Burr, who is not running for reelection.

According to the most recent polling results from FiveThirtyEight, released Oct. 3, Budd leads by less than one point. This is the first debate between the two candidates, and Budd declined to debate his Republican opponents in the primary. There was no Democratic primary debate. 

As North Carolina is a swing state, the results of this election could affect which party gains control of the Senate, which currently has a 50-50 split between Republican and Democratic representatives. 

Inflation is a big issue for both candidates, and Beasley said that she doesn’t feel Congress is doing enough to help Americans. Beasley said while she doesn’t feel that President Joe Biden is doing enough to help, Budd is also to blame — as he voted in May against a bill prohibiting price gouging by oil and gas companies while taking money from a corporate gas political action committee, the Continental Resources Inc. PAC. 

“Congress really can take steps to lower prices,” Beasley said. “We absolutely must make sure that corporations are not cross price gouging. And so we know that corporations are seeing 70-year record profits and using that as a cover for inflation and jacking up prices. And Congress can stop that.”

Budd also thinks that inflation is a major issue, but he is against the $1.9 trillion stimulus package Biden signed into law in March 2021. He said the only stimulus he feels was necessary was what was provided at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Joe Biden went way too far with the American Rescue Plan that was a $2 trillion unnecessary spending plan,” Budd said. “We need to encourage energy, not shut down the Keystone pipeline, like Joe Biden did. We need to encourage work and make sure that we have enough folks that go back into the workforce, and we need to stop over regulating.”

Regarding immigration, Beasley said Congress has “dropped the ball.” She said both Republicans and Democrats agree that America’s immigration systems need to be fixed in order to keep communities safe and build a strong economy, while also upholding the values of the American dream. 

“Let's be clear, there are some folks who should not be in this country,” Beasley said. “Reform means that we absolutely must secure the border. … We also must have a clear pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and for those who serve honorably in the military.”

Budd, who voted in 2018 in support of a U.S.-Mexico border wall, claimed that illegal immigration has also led to an increase of drug use. When asked about his stance on Biden’s Oct. 6 pardoning of people federally convicted of simple marijuana possession, Budd said he opposes the pardon, as it sends a message that the government supports drug use. Budd said he believed illegal drugs are coming across the U.S.–Mexico border and are sent by cartels.

“If someone can tell me that there is a medical case for marijuana, we can certainly have that discussion,” Budd said. “They're making money hand over fist at the expense of Americans, especially men, young men 18 to 45 years old that are dying because of what's coming across our border.”

Beasley said she is in favor of legalizing both medicinal and recreational marijuana use for North Carolina, as she said it gives the government a chance to reform the criminal justice system and help the economy by getting people back to work. 

Health care is also a key issue for both candidates. Budd said he fully supports “low costs, high quality health care for all individuals,” yet he said Medicare for all is not the solution. Budd said because a majority of Americans get their health care from their place of work, Medicare for all would not make sense.

“Medicare to all, which would take and destroy what our seniors have and what they've worked for and dilute it amongst everyone, it would destroy a workable system,” Budd said.

While Beasley didn’t specifically say if she supported Medicare for all or not, she said she supports expanding the Affordable Care Act — which was created under the Obama administration — with a public option. 

“I certainly hate that North Carolina is one of the 12 states in the country that has not expanded Medicaid. I hope we will do that,” Beasley said. “More than 500,000 people here in the state will have medical coverage, but we need to do what's right by North Carolina.”