North Carolina

His heart stopped and he crashed his car. Now this Democrat is running for US Senate.

Eric Mansfield survived his heart stopping and the resulting car accident in 2018.

One year later, the former state senator is running for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina, joining a growing field of candidates hoping to unseat incumbent Republican Thom Tillis.

“Tragedy isn’t getting knocked down. It’s failing to get back up,” Mansfield said at the beginning of his campaign introduction video, retelling the story of May 31, 2018.

An avid Crossfit participant, Mansfield had just finished a rigorous workout when his heart stopped while he was driving, he told The Fayetteville Observer. He crashed into a tree in Fuquay-Varina at about 50 mph, he recalled. He told the paper that a man helped him out of the car and began CPR, saving his life.

“A year has passed since a Good Samaritan pulled me from the wreck and gave me a second chance at life,” Mansfield said in the video. “I firmly believe life is not about how many times you get pushed down, but if you’re willing to get back up.”

He later had bypass surgery to clear a blockage in his heart, the Observer reported.

Mansfield is a military veteran, ordained Baptist minister and physician who opened ear, nose and throat practices in Fayetteville and Holly Springs.

He announced in April that he was considering a run. He said he’s been talking to neighbors, meeting voters across the state and praying about the decision.

“My experience as a leader — be it in the military, in the pulpit, in the NC Senate, or in the operating room — has shown me that there are so many ways and places for each of us to work for other people,” Mansfield said in a statement. “I have decided that the best place for me to do that is in the United States Senate.”

His announcement comes one day after former state Sen. Cal Cunningham entered the race. Sitting state Sen. Erica Smith and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller are also seeking the Democratic nomination.

Raleigh businessman Garland Tucker and farmer Sandy Smith have announced they are challenging Tillis for the Republican nomination.

Tillis is considered one of the most vulnerable senators running for re-election in 2020, though the former N.C. House Speaker knocked off incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan with a narrow 2014 victory.

“North Carolinians need a Senator that will fight with and for them. That Senator is not Thom Tillis. It’s time we put people over politics and start listening to one another to find solutions to the challenges that we all face,” Mansfield said in a statement.

Mansfield served one term in the statehouse, representing a Fayetteville-area district from 2011 to 2013. He lost a 2012 bid for lieutenant governor, losing the Democratic nomination to Linda Coleman by more than 12 percentage points. In early 2013, Mansfield dropped his bid for North Carolina Democratic Party chair.

Brian Murphy covers North Carolina’s congressional delegation and state issues from Washington, D.C., for The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and The Herald-Sun. He grew up in Cary and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. He previously worked for news organizations in Georgia, Idaho and Virginia. Reach him at 202.383.6089 or bmurphy@mcclatchydc.com.
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