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 Marcia Morey rescinded her endorsement of Foushee Wednesday, saying Foushee hasn't disavowed "massive out of state donations."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.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Raleigh.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Raleigh stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Raleigh.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more