With polling lead, U.S. Senate candidate visits Wrightsville Beach to tout environmental record


A leading challenger for one of North Carolina’s U.S. Senate seats visited Wrightsville Beach last Sunday to promote her environmental views and present her experience in the North Carolina General Assembly. 

Erica Smith, a Democratic state senator representing six counties in northeastern North Carolina, spoke Sunday at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort in Wrightsville Beach about her 2020 bid for the U.S. Senate. Smith will challenge Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican who served as the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives before being elected to Congress in 2015.

Blockade Runner co-owner Mary Baggett introduced Smith to a crowd of about two dozen, touting her environmental record and emphasizing her opposition to oil drilling off the North Carolina coast. 

“I love being an environmentalist, that’s my top platform item,” Smith said. “We need to protect our shoreline. We don’t need to entertain the idea of offshore drilling. I know what happens with seismic testing and offshore drilling. It won’t happen under my watch.”

Baggett, herself an avid environmentalist, told the crowd that Smith maintained an excellent record on environmental issues in the N.C. Senate, noting that she was recognized in 2017 with a Green Tie Award by the N.C. League of Conservation Voters, which recognizes legislators for their support of environmental issues. 

“She will defend our coast,” Baggett said. “She understands the importance of what we have to protect.”

Smith, the first woman to represent North Carolina’s 3rd Senate District, was first elected in 2014. She represents six northeastern N.C. counties — Beaufort, Bertie, Martin, Northampton, Vance and Warren  — two of which are on the coast. 

Before winning a seat in the General Assembly, Smith served on the Northampton County Board of Education. A graduate of North Carolina A&T University, Smith earned a degree in mechanical engineering and worked as an engineer before becoming a teacher in 2003.

Drawing from her teaching experience, Smith likened her platform to a six-point “lesson plan” for Congress. In addition to environmental stewardship, other issues in her platform include education, healthcare, justice reform, economic development, and redevelopment of the tax code and immigration policy.

She said healthcare would be another top priority as a legislator.

“Everyone in America should have access to health care,” Smith said. “In the last two years, the price of insulin has risen from $6 per bottle to $18 per bottle. That is unacceptable.”

In addition to promoting her six-point platform, Smith was also there to trumpet a recent poll that showed her leading Tillis by seven points in the state that elected Republican Donald Trump for president by nearly four points in 2016, while also narrowly voting in Democrat Roy Cooper for governor.

The poll, released in early June, was conducted by  Emerson College, a private institution located in Massachusetts. 

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