North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has endorsed the challenger of a sitting state senator in the May 17 primary — an unusual public intervention by Cooper in intraparty politics.
The second-term governor is backing Val Applewhite for the Cumberland County seat currently held by Sen. Kirk deViere, who at times has voted with the Republican majority on some measures Cooper opposed.
In his endorsement, released Tuesday and affirmed by a Cooper social media post, the governor said Applewhite “isn’t afraid to stand up to Right Wing Republicans as we work to build a state where everyone has an equal chance to prosper.”
“I need legislators who will help me expand Medicaid, pay teachers more and give everyone an opportunity,” Cooper was quoted as saying.
DeViere said he was taken aback by Applewhite’s run — the two are former Fayetteville City Council members who ran unsuccessfully for mayor — and by Cooper’s endorsement. DeViere said he’s been asked while serving in Raleigh to “to ignore the interests of Cumberland to ‘hold the party line.’”
“I’m confident that the voters of Cumberland understand what’s at stake and will choose the voice that best represents their interests – not the interests of partisan Raleigh politicians,” deViere said in a news release. “This primary challenge is a direct result of putting my community over partisan politics and not being a rubber stamp.”
DeViere was one of four Senate Democrats who voted with Republicans for an earlier version of the 2021 state budget. All four were formally added to the Senate’s committee that formally negotiated a final budget with Cooper and that ultimately received strong bipartisan support.
In a video posted on social media, Applewhite said “to have Gov. Cooper step into a primary, a Democratic primary, shows that he has lost confidence” in deViere.
Ed Donaldson is also running in the Democratic primary for the 19th Senate District. The winner will advance to the November election against one of two Republicans seeking the GOP nomination. One Republican is former Sen. Wesley Meredith.