House Progressives Endorse Erica Smith In Heated North Carolina Primary

Smith’s opponent, state Sen. Don Davis, has cast votes to undermine abortion rights.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus' PAC cited the urgent need to protect abortion rights in its endorsement of Erica Smith in North Carolina's 1st Congressional District.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus' PAC cited the urgent need to protect abortion rights in its endorsement of Erica Smith in North Carolina's 1st Congressional District.
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

The Congressional Progressive Caucus’ political action committee endorsed Erica Smith on Friday in the contentious Democratic primary in North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District.

The stamp of approval for Smith, who is already backed by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America, marks the latest effort by progressive Democrats to marshal the energy unleashed by the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion overturning the Roe v. Wade decision that guarantees a nationwide right to abortion.

Smith, a former state senator, is running against state Sen. Don Davis, a conservative Democrat who has cast votes for legislation undermining abortion rights, such as a budget bill that cemented the state’s defunding of Planned Parenthood. Davis nonetheless emphasizes his support for the fundamental right to an abortion and has condemned the leaked Roe draft decision.

“State Sen. Erica Smith has been a leading voice for reproductive, environmental, economic and racial justice in North Carolina,” CPC PAC co-Chairs Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Mark Pocan (Wis.) and Jamie Raskin (Md.) said in a statement. “She’s running on a Rural New Deal that highlights the ways in which a progressive vision resonates with rural communities.”

“In this moment, it is critical to elect candidates who are committed to fighting for reproductive justice, and whose records speak to a firm and true commitment to abortion rights,” the trio of lawmakers added. “As a pro-choice pastor with a record of fighting to protect reproductive freedom in the state legislature, Erica brings a unique perspective and is someone we can count on to protect access to safe and legal abortion.”

Smith welcomed the endorsement in a statement.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has “been leading the fight to ensure universal healthcare and living wages, get dark money out of our politics, and deliver bold climate action,” she said. “I know that with their backing we can protect this seat, and build a brighter future for the people of eastern North Carolina.”

It’s not yet clear what kind of financial support will accompany the CPC PAC’s announcement. In the 2020 election cycle, House progressives’ campaign spending arm mounted multiple six-figure spending initiatives through its super PAC.

Another progressive group, the Working Families Party, has already purchased over $100,000 of TV airtime to advertise in support of Smith’s bid.

Voting in North Carolina’s 1st concludes on May 17, however, providing Smith and the progressive groups backing her less than two weeks to overcome an avalanche of spending on Davis’ behalf. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s super PAC, United Democracy Project, has spent nearly $1.5 million in support of Davis’ bid.

Davis also enjoys the backing of Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D), whose retirement prompted the contested Democratic primary.

But win or lose in North Carolina’s 1st, the CPC PAC’s endorsement of Smith could shore up the bloc’s credentials on the activist left. The group endured criticism for endorsing the reelection of Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio), a newly admitted CPC member, as she sought to fend off a primary challenge from former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, a progressive star. Brown won handily on Tuesday.

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