Politics & Government

This Republican state senator from Mecklenburg just picked up an unusual endorsement

A Republican in a tight race for the N.C. Senate has picked up an unusual endorsement in this polarized, partisan climate.

State Sen. Joel Ford, a Democrat, is featured in a new ad that’s set to start airing this week for Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Republican. Ford, who ran for Charlotte mayor unsuccessfully in 2016 and lost his primary race this year, represents part of north Charlotte.

“Jeff’s a friend,” said Ford. “As a friend, he asked me for help, and I feel comfortable providing that help, based upon ... his integrity and his service for the state of North Carolina.”

The ad will start airing Tuesday on cable channels in Mecklenburg County, Tarte campaign adviser Larry Shaheen said, as well as on digital platforms. The ad buy is in the six figures, and could increase from there.

Ford’s endorsement comes as North Carolina Democrats have been working hard to flip seats in the state legislature come November. Led by Democratic figures such as Gov. Roy Cooper and Mecklenburg Sen. Jeff Jackson, “Break the Supermajority” has been a rallying cry for candidates seeking to unseat Republicans this year. To bust up Republicans’ veto-proof margins in the legislature, Democrats need to pick up four House seats or six Senate seats.

Tarte’s seat is seen by Democrats as one of the most flippable, in large part because he’s running in a redrawn district that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016. His opponent Natasha Marcus had more cash on hand at the end of the second quarter, the most recent available snapshot: $156,000 compared to almost $138,000 for Tarte.

In a statement, Marcus said she’s the better candidate to represent the district and has the support of local Democrats.

“My opponent is one of the most right-wing members of the N.C. Senate and Mr. Ford, although he claims to be a Democrat, voted overwhelmingly with my opponent and the GOP,” Marcus said. “Mr. Ford lost both his primary race for N.C. Senate and his mayoral race by double digits. My supporters, like (Rep.) Chaz Beasley and Jeff Jackson, either currently represent or have represented parts of Senate District 41 and that will matter much more when it comes to the voters.

“This endorsement comes as no surprise and will be meaningless,” she said.

Ford said his endorsement of Tarte, in which he praises the senator on issues such as fighting the Interstate 77 toll lanes, shouldn’t be seen in the context of Democrat’s larger “Break the supermajority” effort. Ford said he’s backing Tarte because he thinks he’ll do the best job of representing the district.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “It’s community over party.”

Ford lost the primary race for his seat this year to former county Democratic Party official Mujtaba Mohammed. During the campaign, Ford faced criticism for working with Senate Republican leaders, including as one of the few Democrats to vote for the final legislative budget.

Tarte said he’s pleased to have Ford’s endorsement from across the aisle.

“It’s nice to get support from across the spectrum,” he said. “We need to demonstrate that we actually do work together.”

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