As the March 3 primary approaches, five candidates on the N.C. Democratic primary ballot for U.S. Senate — Cal Cunningham, Trevor Fuller, Atul Goel, Erica Smith and Steve Swenson — are promoting their platforms to make the case as to why they should be the one to run against incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.
A poll released this week by Public Policy Polling found that while 52 percent of voters remain undecided, Cunningham led Smith in the poll, with 29 percent of respondents saying they back Cunningham to Smith's 10 percent. Goel, Fuller and Swenson each polled at 4 percent or less.
Cunningham, Smith and Goel have all promised to not take corporate PAC money according to their websites, and Dee Jones, campaign coordinator for Trevor Fuller, said Fuller has also taken the pledge. Health care, climate change and education are among some of the biggest issues being discussed in the various campaigns.
According to FEC filings through the last quarter of 2019, Cunningham claimed receipts of over $3.3 million and Smith claimed around $213,000.
The candidates are divided on how to provide affordable health care to everyone. Cunningham said he supports strengthening the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid in North Carolina and creating a public health insurance option. He also said he wants Medicare to be allowed to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower drug costs.
“One of the ways I just don’t put forth is any plan that would take away over 150 million Americans’ private health insurance,” Cunningham said. “Particularly, in the case of labor organizations and many other organizations — they have negotiated for generous benefits.”
Fuller and Smith have both indicated support for "Medicare for All." Smith said she would be supportive of the "Medicare for All" bill introduced last February by U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. Jayapal’s bill would federally cover items like preventative services and prescription drugs, and the bill further includes insurance coverage for mental health, dental and vision services. Additionally, Smith said expanding Medicaid in North Carolina is a necessary step.
Goel, a physician, said he has not explicitly put forth a specific policy in regards to health care, but said experience in the medical field is a reason voters should trust him to have the ability to work with others in the industry to create a solution. He said he does not believe the answer is to completely start over with another system, as it would spark disruption, and because many people like their insurance.