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The Daily Tar Heel

Valerie Foushee loses progressive endorsement after accepting contentious funds


Photo contributed by Valerie Foushee.

After taking over $165,000 from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an organization that donated to 37 Republicans who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, N.C. Sen. Valerie Foushee, D-Chatham, Orange, lost an endorsement from a progressive group in her race for the fourth congressional U.S. House district.

On April 17, the Progressive Caucus of the N.C. Democratic Party made the decision to retract their endorsement after it was revealed that Foushee took financial support from AIPAC.

The district that Foushee is running for includes Chapel Hill and Durham. The seat is open following the retirement announcement of U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., in October. Eight Democrats are currently running for the seat in the Democratic primary.

AIPAC's mission is to advocate for a strong relationship between the United States and Israel. It is a bipartisan organization and has donated to and endorsed both Democrats and Republicans.

Despite this, AIPAC has received criticism for recent donations to Republicans. 

Some of these critics cite the organization's opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement and support of former President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to move the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Foushee did not respond to The Daily Tar Heel's request for comment. However, in an email statement to The News & Observer, Foushee’s campaign said her 25 years of elected service speak to her commitment to progressive values. 

"The insinuation that she could be bought by any interest group or donor is outrageous and offensive," the statement said.

Carrboro Town Council member Sammy Slade, who has endorsed Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, said he applauds the PCNCDP’s willingness to stand up for its beliefs by retracting the endorsement.

“I feel not just more organizations but more individuals should follow their example and not feel like just because they thought a candidate was who they wanted to support that they must support them," he said. "They should go by their actions throughout the campaign, and if they’re elected, their votes.” 

In response to their withdrawal of support, the PCNCDP, some local lawmakers and political scientists were critical of Foushee.

Ryan Jenkins, the president of the PCNCDP, said that while the organization would have understood if Foushee had taken the money to go toward her campaign, they were disappointed by her support for AIPAC.

“They were very explicit in saying that she is a very strongly pro-AIPAC candidate, and AIPAC supports a large number of Republicans who tried to overturn the 2020 election,” Jenkins said. “That’s a slap in the face to the Constitution, democracy, freedom, liberty."

Jenkins added that the PCNCDP recognizes Allam, Clay Aiken and Richard Watkins rather than Foushee as progressives. However, he emphasized that they are not planning to endorse any particular candidate.

AIPAC's political action committee bundled the funds for Foushee's campaign.

J. Michael Bitzer, a political science professor from Catawba College, said that he does not see much of a difference between bundled money and direct contributions to a campaign, referring to it as "a distinction without a difference."

“Bundlers are helping to give signals,” he said. “They give cues to not just the candidate but to the donors as well.”

Richard Mahoney, a professor of political science at N.C. State University, said that though the PCNCDP’s retraction might not have an effect on the race, he believes the broader issue of Foushee taking AIPAC money could pose a problem for the campaign.

“It’s one thing to have one major political party sell out and show total cowardice in terms of the former president, and it’s another for a progressive candidate — a Democrat — to be associated with an organization doing just that as well,” Mahoney said.


@DTHCityState | 

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