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North Carolina Senate debate sees Ted Budd and Cheri Beasley face off for the first time

(RALEIGH, N.C.) — On Friday, North Carolina voters will see their candidates for Senate face off for the first and probably only time.

The debate, hosted by Spectrum News 1, will take place in Raleigh and will start at 8 p.m. ET.

Former state chief justice and Democratic candidate Cheri Beasley will meet GOP candidate Rep. Ted Budd on stage in a swing-state race that could help decide the control of Congress.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Budd leads Beasley by less than 1 point.

Beasley has heavily run her campaign on issues such as access to abortion and lowering health care costs. Meanwhile, Budd, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has emphasized combating crime and supporting law enforcement in North Carolina.

Just a few weeks out from Election Day, Beasley and Budd have ramped up attacks on one another. She hit him on his anti-abortion stance and he emphasized having ample support from the local law enforcement community, arguing he would be better at handling the issue of crime.

The Beasley campaign told ABC News that the former chief justice has been looking forward to the debate.

Budd’s campaign did not respond to our request for comment.

Tim Boyum a reporter for Spectrum News 1 in North Carolina, will be moderating the debate. Prior to the debate, Boyum spent a day on the campaign trail with both candidates, where, he said, it became clear what issues are top of mind for voters as the election nears.

“On the Republican side, the issues of inflation, immigration and the border and crime dominated the discussion,” Boyum said. “On the Democratic side, voters were talking extensively about abortion and prescription drugs. I think that follows the path of recent polling that shows that the economy, abortion, health care and immigration are topping voters’ minds.”

The issue of the economy and inflation is likely to be a powerful force pushing people to the polls this year. According to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 74% of voters said the economy is in bad shape. Equally important, 84% called the economy a top issue in their vote for Congress and 76% said the same about inflation.

And although Republican voters are set with Budd and Democratic voters are set with Beasley, it could be the large number of unaffiliated voters who tip the scale of the race. Currently, there are 2.5 million unaffiliated voters in North Carolina, making it the largest voting bloc — surpassing the amount of registered Democrat and Republican voters.

Friday’s debate will allow unaffiliated voters to learn more about the Senate candidates.

“This race has run under the radar nationally, and a lot of voters may not be as familiar with the candidates as the political class,” Boyum, the moderator, said.

Prior to Friday’s face-off, neither candidate took part in any primary debates. Beasley cleared the Democratic field before a debate could even be put together and Budd declined to take part in any events with his Republican challengers.

As of now, this is the only Senate debate scheduled in North Carolina, a contrast with just two years ago, when then-candidates Cal Cunningham and Sen. Thom Tillis faced off three times prior to Election Day.

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