North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd, a conservative Republican in his third term, said Wednesday he would run for his state’s open Senate seat.
In joining an already crowded contest to replace GOP Sen. Richard M. Burr, who is not seeking reelection, Budd’s campaign stressed the congressman’s support for former President Donald Trump as well as conservative social and economic policy priorities. Budd, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, was among the 147 Republicans in Congress who voted against certifying the electoral results of some states for Joe Biden.
“I’m a small businessman who was so fed up with the liberals’ attacks on our faith, our families and our way of life that I ran for Congress to stand and fight alongside Donald Trump to drain the swamp and take our country back,” Budd said in a video announcing his candidacy.
He also criticized Democrats for pushing tax hikes and multitrillion-dollar government programs, emphasized his opposition to abortion rights and his ownership of a gun store to make the point of his support for the Second Amendment.
“Today, the U.S. Senate is the last line of defense against becoming a woke socialist wasteland,” he said.
Other high-profile Republicans already in the race include former Rep. Mark Walker, who launched his bid in December, and former Gov. Pat McCrory, who announced his campaign this month. Lara Trump, who is married to Trump’s son Eric, is also reportedly weighing a run for the Senate seat.
Walker, a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said in a statement he welcomed Budd to the race and that "all conservatives must stand together so we do not elect another establishment politician to the Senate who says one thing and does another when elected."
Both Walker and Budd voted slightly more often than the average Republican for the position Trump took on bills in his final two years in office, but less often than the average Republican during the former president's first two years in office, according to data compiled by CQ Vote Watch.
For the four years, Walker's presidential unity score was 94.2 percent, compared with Budd's 91.5 percent and 92.1 percent for the average House Republican. Walker missed more votes, and that could affect his score, however.
The data show that from 2017 through 2020, Walker voted 137 times on measures where the former president's position was known, and opposed Trump's position eight times. Budd, meanwhile, voted 165 times on measures where Trump's position was known, and opposed the former president 14 times.
The seat is expected to be one of the most competitive and expensive Senate contests in 2022. The Tar Heel State’s 2020 contest between GOP Sen. Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham was the second-most expensive in the nation that cycle, with $222 million in outside spending, according to a tabulation by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Within minutes of Budd’s entrance into the race, one conservative outside group, the Club for Growth PAC, endorsed him.
“Rep. Budd has already proven that he is a conservative champion in the House fighting against reinstating earmarks, bloated budgets, and tax increases,” said Club for Growth PAC President David McIntosh. “Rep. Budd would be an excellent addition to the Senate and North Carolinians can always count on him to protect their taxpayer dollars and stand up to the special interests in Washington.”
The group’s super PAC spent $71 million in the 2020 election cycle supporting GOP candidates and attacking Democrats.
Donald Trump carried North Carolina by just 1 point in 2020. Tillis also narrowly won a second term by 2 points, defeating Cunningham, who ran as a relative moderate but was dogged by a late-breaking marital affair scandal.
Democrats are also expected to have a competitive primary. Former state Sen. Erica Smith, who lost to Cunningham in the 2020 Senate primary, is running again. Cheri Beasely, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, also announced Tuesday that she would be running. Her video announcement focused on her background and her work as a public defender and as a judge.
Beasely is the first Black woman to serve as chief justice of the state’s high court. The Collective PAC, a group supporting Black candidates, endorsed her on Tuesday, making its first Senate endorsement of the cycle.
Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton, a retired Air Force colonel, and state Sen. Jeff Jackson, a captain in the Army National Guard who served in Afghanistan, are also in the race. And more candidates could jump in, such as Joan Higginbotham, a retired astronaut.
Bobbie Richardson, chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, issued a statement calling Budd a far-right extremist.
“Congressman Budd followed Donald Trump off the election fraud cliff when he undermined our democracy, spread dangerous and false conspiracy theories, and fought to overturn the election results even after the violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th,” Richardson said. “This messy, crowded Republican primary will be one of the most divisive contests in the nation, and the flawed field of candidates will face a brutal fight for the nomination.”
The 13th District, which Budd represents, extends from Greensboro west and south to the suburbs of Charlotte. It is a solidly Republican district that sent Budd back to Congress by a margin of 68 percent to 32 percent.
The state’s congressional districts will be redrawn for the 2022 midterm elections, however, and Tar Heel voters will get a new seat in the House because of population changes measured by the 2020 census.