RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Former President Barack Obama endorsed North Carolina U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley on Tuesday in a new campaign ad as Democrats target the Southern swing state as one of the few where they have a strong shot at flipping a seat in the evenly split chamber.

North Carolina, which Obama narrowly won in 2008, has one of the nation’s most competitive Senate contests in the midterm elections. Beasley, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, is running against Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, who has former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. With Republicans poised to make gains in the House in November, Beasley’s race is an essential pickup for Senate Democrats who hope to retain control of at least one chamber.

As her opponent leans into his Trump ties — a move political analysts say could alienate the moderate and independent voters who often decide elections in swing states — Beasley’s campaign said it plans to spend six figures broadcasting Obama’s endorsement statewide. Beginning Tuesday, the campaign will air a 60-second ad voiced by the former president on social media and a 30-second cut on digital platforms and radio.

“Cheri works hard, she’s honest and, most importantly, she always puts people first,” Obama says in the 60-second ad. “In the Senate, Cheri will fight to make health care and prescription drugs more affordable and protect our fundamental rights, from the right to vote to a woman’s right to control her own body. This is going to be a close race, and we can’t afford to get it wrong.”

The former president’s support comes two weeks before Election Day, with in-person early voting already underway in North Carolina. He has also cut endorsement ads for Democratic Senate candidates John Fetterman of Pennsylvania and Mandela Barnes of Wisconsin.

The ad is part of a wider effort to engage and mobilize Black voters in the Tar Heel state, the Beasley campaign told The Associated Press, including church visits and meetings with members of historically Black fraternities and sororities known as “The Divine Nine.”

Obama has not indicated whether he will travel to North Carolina to campaign for Beasley in the final days of the 2022 campaign cycle. He plans to make several stops in other states with competitive senatorial and gubernatorial races this week and next, including a visit to Georgia on Oct. 28, Wisconsin and Michigan on Oct. 29 and Nevada on Nov. 1.

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Hannah Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow her on Twitter at @H_Schoenbaum.

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