Featured photo: Senate hopeful Cheri Beasley visits Cheesecakes by Alex in downtown Greensboro on Sept. 16 (photo by Carolyn de Berry)

As a steady stream of patrons stood in line for pastries and muffins at Cheesecakes by Alex on Friday morning, a larger group of people waited in what is typically the local shop’s dining area for a different kind of treat. At just past 9 a.m., Senate hopeful and former NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley made her appearance in the shop.

“Good morning Guilford County!” she exclaimed as she raised her left hand in the air.

Beasley served as the chief justice of North Carolina’s Supreme Court from 2019-20 after serving in district court for 20 years. In 2021, Beasley announced that she would run for Senate to fill the seat being vacated by Sen. Richard Burr. Now, she faces Republican US Rep. Ted Budd, who has served as the representative for the state’s 13th Congressional District since 2017.

Senate hopeful Cheri Beasley visits Cheesecakes by Alex in downtown Greensboro on Sept. 16 (photo by Carolyn de Berry)

During her short visit, Beasley focused mostly on the importance of lowering prescription drug costs, an issue that is impacting millions of Americans on a daily basis. From Forsyth County, Murphy Greg shared his personal story of dealing with high drug costs.

“About 30 years ago, I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to stroke or heart attack or death,” Greg said. “I was on one medicine forever and ever that did a pretty good job, but as things changed, newer, better, safer medicines came along. The odd thing was the medicine I had been taking was $10 a month and my doctors were suggesting that I switch to what they thought was a more effective medicine.”

After switching, Greg’s costs spiked up to $800 a month.

“That’s the kind of thing that there just aren’t many people, I’m certainly not one of them, that can afford to blend that into a family budget,” Greg said.

Senate hopeful Cheri Beasley visits Cheesecakes by Alex in downtown Greensboro on Sept. 16 (photo by Carolyn de Berry)

If elected, Beasley said she would fight to lower prescription drug costs, something her opponent, Ted Budd has historically voted against.

“Ted Budd, who’s been in Congress for six years, has had every opportunity to show that he would stand up for North Carolina and he just hasn’t done it,” Beasley said. “He did vote against lowering prescription drug costs one day and just a few days later took tens of thousands of dollars in corporate PAC money from Big Pharma.”

According to voting records for HR3, otherwise known as the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, Budd voted against the bill on Dec. 12, 2019, along with a majority of his fellow Republican colleagues. The American Independent, a progressive online news source also reported that just the day before, Budd received $2,500 from the Glaxo-Smith Kline PAC and $1,000 from Pfizer’s PAC.

Senate hopeful Cheri Beasley poses with education organizer Monica Walker and School Board Chair Deena Hayes-Green during her visit to Cheesecakes by Alex in downtown Greensboro on Sept. 16 (photo by Carolyn de Berry)

During her brief time at Cheesecake’s by Alex, Beasley also pointed out more recent actions taken by Budd, including voting against infrastructure, against emergency funding for baby formula and, initially, against supporting veterans who have been affected by burn pits.

Beasley also alluded to the importance of this particular race in determining the future of reproductive rights in North Carolina. While the former chief justice did not mention the words “abortion” or “reproductive rights,” she talked about the importance of protecting people’s Constitutional rights.

“I know we have enjoyed this Constitutional right for almost 50 years and we were sure that the next generation would, and we were just wrong, that fight continues,” Beasley said to the crowd of about 60 people. “But honestly, sometimes it takes that jolt to remind us that all of us have an obligation to always, always keep our foot on the gas for democracy for the state and this country that we love.”

Senate hopeful Cheri Beasley stands next to NC Sen. Gladys Robinson during her visit to Cheesecakes by Alex in downtown Greensboro on Sept. 16 (photo by Carolyn de Berry)

When asked about her wording choice after the event, Beasley didn’t respond directly to her omission of the words, but stated that it’s important for to remember that when “women and families and physicians make these decisions, these are tough decisions and they’re often determined by the health of the mom. And so I know it is reproductive freedom that we’re talking about, and abortion is important.”

Earlier this week, Budd announced that he was in support of a federal proposal to ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks. As reported by multiple news outlets, Budd signed on as a co-sponsor to the bill which was introduced by South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham on Tuesday. The Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and provides some exceptions in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the pregnant person, as reported by Politico. A physician who violates the law could face up to five years in prison.

During the Q&A portion of the event, Beasley responded more with broad ideals rather than specific plans for action. When asked about affordable housing, she talked about the importance of infrastructure and roads so that more affordable homes could be built, rather than touching on increasing wages or pushing for more cancellations of student debt. Similarly, when asked about the immigration crisis, Beasley took a measured response, stating the need to overhaul the immigration system and keep people from being exploited.

“The reality is Republicans and Democrats agree that we must do something about immigration,” she said. “I think there’s a wealth of opportunities for us to come together and do that in a way that we are not just securing our borders but really appreciating the beauty and the talents of folks who come from other places…”

Beasley leads Budd in a very close race, with less than one percentage point based on FiveThirtyEight’s latest aggregated poll. At the end of August, a poll by Public Polling Policy showed Beasley up 42-41 while a poll by Republican-leaning Trafalgar Group found Budd up by about three points possibly indicating that as the election draws closer, the race is getting tighter.

In response to the closeness of the race, Beasley said that she wants voters to know that she’s been in public service for nearly 30 years and that she has shared values with other North Carolinians.

“We all want to make sure that the next senator is focused on the needs and interests of folks here and not on the pettiness of partisan politics in Washington or corporate special interests,” Beasley said.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Beasley and Budd would partake in a debate to be broadcast on Channel 1 for Spectrum subscribers. The debate is set to take place on Oct. 7.

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