RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — One of the reasons former President Donald Trump came to North Carolina over the weekend was to stump for Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd in the state’s pivotal U.S. Senate race.
But was the former president out of bounds in one claim he made against Budd’s Democratic opponent, former state Chief Justice Cheri Beasley?
THE CLAIM: Trump said Beasley was “so far left on crime, she formed a fundraising partnership with the most militant, defund-the-police Democrat in Congress.”
THE FACTS: Trump is talking about a Federal Election Committee filing last year that showed a joint fundraiser between the Beasley campaign and the one for U.S. Rep. Cori Bush.
Bush, a Missouri Democrat, has pushed for defunding police departments and redirecting that money to programs focused on mental health and social services.
Trump was clearly trying to tie her to Beasley.
But Beasley said exactly the opposite less than a month ago, standing with dozens of officers, sheriffs, deputies and other law enforcement officials and explicitly telling a news conference that “I do not support defund the police.”
Trump also repeated several claims that were debunked by a previous CBS 17 News fact check, saying Beasley “personally stopped the death sentences of eight death-row inmates convicted of the most hideous crimes.”
In actuality, Beasley wrote the majority opinion for the state Supreme Court in one case that focused on how the state’s Racial Justice Act should have been applied.
But there’s an even larger issue at hand.
It’s become common for candidates to accuse their opponents of wanting to defund the police — effectively making it the 2022 version of the soft-on-crime argument that is made virtually every election season.
A CBS 17 News fact check from two weeks ago spotlighted the race for a North Carolina Senate seat in which mailers arriving on the same day portrayed current Sen. Sydney Batch as both promising to defund the police and fully fund the police.
Mac McCorkle, a professor of the practice at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and a former adviser to Democratic Govs. Mike Easley and Beverly Perdue, says a candidate accusing an opponent of wanting to defund the police is the evolution of the age-old accusation of being soft on crime.
He says it could be the key issue that pushes the race one way or the other.
“If voters are of the mind to check in and view Cheri Beasley’s individual record and what she’s saying … they’re going to find that she is not for defunding the police. She’s a judge and people could argue about her decisions, but she’s not been for it,” McCorkle said. “To the extent that independent voters or people who haven’t been totally committed one way or the other see it that way, she, basically, is going to win.
“If a lot of voters are saying — again, even the independents — ‘Oh, well, Trump’s basically right, because regardless of what a Democratic candidate says, the Democrats, the general direction, is they’re defunding the police,” he continued. “If that’s the way people make up their minds, Budd’s going to win. So it really is a microcosm.”
Why do arguments about defunding police or being soft on crime resonate so strongly in the first place?
“It gets to the heart of people’s concerns about what government should or shouldn’t be able to do,” McCorkle said. “And the problem for the Democrats is, there are figures on the progressive left who said, ‘Defund the police.’
“One of the problems that you run into politics is, if you create a phrase to tag my side with — my side’s never used it — that usually doesn’t work,” he added. “Not Joe Biden, not Cheri Beasley, but there were a number of progressive figures who said, ‘We are for defunding the police. And no, we’re not just for cutting back on budgets. We really are for it.’ So in that case, it has more resonance because it has some, at least, partial truth or half truth to it.”