“Public bickering,” personal attacks, and “tensions” are rising in the “heated” GOP Senate primary. Between Ted Budd and Mark Walker’s bitter attacks, and the barrage of criticism against Pat McCrory’s losing record, North Carolina voters are watching as the GOP field devolves into one of the nastiest and most expensive primaries in the country.
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WRAL: NC GOP’s US Senate primary turns personal as Budd, Walker tangle for Trump base
- Public bickering between two candidates of the same party isn’t unusual in a North Carolina primary, but sharing private conversations is uncommon. The falling out between Budd and Walker illustrates just how heated the primary has become and how high the stakes are in a race that could tilt the balance of an evenly split U.S. Senate and stifle President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
- Budd and Walker are fighting to capture a wing of the party that tilts further right ideologically, and that battle has intensified ever since former President Donald Trump endorsed Budd and unsuccessfully tried to get Walker out of the Senate race.
- The intraparty fight among North Carolina Republicans reflects major stylistic differences between the candidates and a larger fight over North Carolina’s future leadership.
- The May 17 primary winner would take on presumptive Democratic nominee Cheri Beasley in what is expected to be one of the nation’s most expensive and competitive U.S. Senate races this year. If no Republican candidate captures at least 30% of the vote, the two highest vote-getters would advance to a July 26 runoff.
- Budd has been less visible on the campaign trail than his opponents.
- David McIntosh, president of political action committee Club for Growth Action, said his group plans to spend $10 million between now and the election to boost Budd’s profile. The move comes in addition to $4 million the group has already put in to support Budd and attack McCrory.
- McCrory and Walker have attacked Budd’s lack of visibility, but Budd has pushed back.
- More than a week after filing closed, Budd still declined to say whether he’d agree to a single debate. “I’m certainly open to it, but we’re going to consider our options,” Budd said.
- Walker said voters should be concerned that McCrory’s 2016 reelection loss came at a time when other statewide Republican candidates won.
- “If you can’t win when you have the cover of Donald Trump and [former Lt. Gov.] Dan Forest, and supermajorities in the House, how in the world do you think you can win when you’re the singular focus of [Democratic Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer and all the money coming in from New York and California?” Walker said.
- After his reelection defeat, McCrory unsuccessfully sought a position within the Trump administration, privately meeting with the president-elect in December 2016.
- McCrory also faced a series of struggles during his tenure, including the passage of House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill.” The 2016 bill required people to use restrooms at North Carolina schools and government buildings that corresponded to their gender assigned at birth. The measure was seen as discriminatory toward transgender residents and prompted businesses and the NCAA to scale back operations in North Carolina.