Democratic Senate candidates in North Carolina face off at their first forum

2020 candidates for North Carolina state offices begin campaigns. Here's a look at who's who in the major races.



Two of North Carolina’s Democratic U.S. Senate candidates disagreed on health care policy at the first meeting of their campaigns Tuesday night.

They were among four Democrats and one Republican candidate who appeared at a forum sponsored by Charlotte’s Black Political Caucus at West Charlotte High School. All are trying to replace Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis.

Asked about health care, former state Sen. Cal Cunningham said he would build on the Affordable Care Act by adding a public option. He also said he supports Medicaid expansion in North Carolina.

State Sen. Erica Smith didn’t answer the question directly.

“We get caught up in labels,” she said, “This is not about left or right. This is about wrong and right.”

Last year, she said she would build on the ACA, better known as Obamacare. But if Medicare for All is the only option, she said “would not vote against it.”

Trevor Fuller, a Mecklenburg County commissioner, said he wants universal health care.

“Medicare for all is the closest model we have,” he said.

Tillis has voted to repeal the ACA.

The Senate forum was one of several on a busy program that included candidates for the state House and Senate and lieutenant governor. Because of the format, Senate candidates didn’t have time to answer many questions nor respond to the same ones.

One Democrat, Steve Swenson of Harnett County, appeared to take more time than other candidates to push for a reparation plan that would pay $2 trillion to descendants of slaves, including payments of $100,000 to individuals.

At times he spoke over his fellow candidates, which prompted a rebuke from Fuller.

“This is not comedy hour,” Fuller said. “This is an important position.” ...