May 12, 2022 - Politics

Durham Democrats duke it out ahead of May 17 primary

Illustration of a donkey torn in half.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

North Carolina's 4th Congressional District Democratic primary is the most expensive in the state’s history.

  • Three groups alone have spent nearly $2.7 million in favor of the front-runner state Sen. Valerie Foushee, as first reported by The Assembly.

Driving the news: As the primary nears, candidates have criticized Foushee because she’s backed by numerous outside groups, including a political action committee primarily funded by a 30-year-old cryptocurrency billionaire.

  • Democratic state Rep. Marcia Morey rescinded her endorsement of Foushee Wednesday, saying Foushee hasn't disavowed "massive out of state donations." Morey endorsed Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam instead.
  • Former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken, another candidate in the race, also weighed in Wednesday during a press conference. Aiken criticized the flow of "dark money" and indicated he has lost respect for Foushee. He said Democrats are not practicing what they preach, according to The News & Observer.

Yes, but: Foushee and Allam have a nearly identical campaign platform. Both support Medicare for All and say on their campaign websites that they want to pass a Green New Deal — a policy proposal for addressing climate change.

However, they differ in one issue that's come to the forefront in this race: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  • Foushee's campaign manager told The Assembly that she supports a two-state solution in the Middle East and believes "Israel is a critically important strategic ally."
  • Allam, who is Muslim, has previously criticized Israel's treatment of Palestine and military aid the U.S. gives Israel.

Why it matters: Foushee's stance on the conflict is one reason key Democrats and donors in North Carolina and nationally are supporting her.

  • Meanwhile, Allam has gained a reputation as the more left-leaning candidate in the race, garnering the endorsements of Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

What they're saying: "It's a misnomer that this is a progressive versus a moderate," Morgan Jackson, a campaign strategist with close ties to Gov. Roy Cooper, told Axios. "This is a progressive versus ultraprogressive."

  • Jackson also said that Democrats should be careful not to follow the example of Republicans, who have "turned their party to the far, far right."
  • "If we're going to remain in the majority, we're going to have to win in a lot of places, and that means putting a brand out there that represents a lot of people."

The bottom line: The fight between Foushee and Allam, has highlighted tension playing out across the entire Democratic party over what their image should be heading into the midterm elections.

  • The winner of N.C.'s 4th district democratic primary is expected to ultimately be elected to Congress in November, as the district leans heavily left.
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