by Mickayla McCann
In one of the most competitive U.S. Senate races of the year, Cal Cunningham is seeking to unseat incumbent Thom Tillis and bring integrity back to Capitol Hill.
“While we may not always agree on the issues, I will always listen and work to bring North Carolina stories to Washington and put North Carolina first in the debates before our country -- from expanding health care and bringing down prescription drug costs, to raising wages and putting folks back to work following this crisis,” Cunningham said. “My opponent, Thom Tillis has spent the past six years looking out for special interests in Washington instead of the people he represents.”
A North Carolinian through-and-through, Cunningham was born in Winston-Salem and raised in Lexington. He grew up volunteering on service projects in the Appalachian Mountains with his church, working at the family brickyard, and gathering inspiration from his father, a compassionate small-town attorney. Cunningham went on to earn his undergraduate and law degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill, as well a Master’s in Public Policy and Public Administration from the London School of Economics.
At age 27, Cunningham became one of the youngest state senators in NC, representing Davidson, Rowan, and Iredell Counties. While in office, Cunningham fought for higher teacher pay, smaller class sizes, and the creation of what is now known as NC Pre-K. Reflecting on his term as state senator, Cunningham stated that some of his biggest achievements were helping to pass the landmark Clean Smokestack Act of 2002, as well as legislation establishing public financing and voter guides for judicial elections.
“During my time in the North Carolina legislature, I learned that elective office can be a meaningful way to serve our communities, though I’m most deeply guided by the values I’ve learned from the North Carolinians I grew up with and served with,” Cunningham said.
After 9/11 Cunningham volunteered to join the U.S. Army Reserve. He served three active-duty tours and now holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Cunningham stated that he aims to use the lessons he learned in the military to lead the state through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the Army Reserve, I learned that in a crisis, our leaders must identify critical objectives, plan a response, marshal the resources and communicate that plan clearly,” Cunningham said. “The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic demands that same leadership and good judgment, not only as communities and frontline workers deal with the day-to-day realities of this pandemic, but also as communities everywhere look for guidance to reopen.”
Aside from his career in the military, Cunningham has worked at several law firms, including Wallace & Graham, Kilpatrick Stockton, and the Law Offices of J. Calvin Cunningham. He also served as the vice president and general counsel of WasteZero, a waste reduction company in Raleigh, from 2013 to March 2020.
Despite his busy professional life, Cunningham felt compelled to run for office after feeling disappointed by the way North Carolina was represented in the U.S. Senate.
“When I took an oath to support and defend our country against all enemies, foreign and domestic, I never imagined the biggest threat to our country would be corruption and chaos in Washington,” Cunningham said. “I’m running to fulfill that oath, and because I’ve got to be able to look my kids in the eye and say I did everything I could to leave our country better off for their generation.”
Cunningham has ambitious goals for North Carolina. As a U.S. Senator, he plans to offer low-cost, accessible healthcare by extending coverage under the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid. He also aims to attack income and wealth inequality by raising the minimum wage, decreasing the cost of healthcare and education, and investing in communities of color and minority-owned businesses. Further, Cunningham intends to combat climate change by investing in clean energy, reducing carbon pollution, and protecting North Carolina’s natural resources.
“I’ve always run toward the fight, and now I am asking North Carolinians to put me into this fight again,” Cunningham said.
To learn more about Cunningham’s campaign and priorities, and make a donation, check out his website.