(WGHP) — After Mark Walker, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, announced he was having a campaign event on Thursday night, former President Donald Trump followed up with a reinforced endorsement for one of Walker’s opponents, Rep. Ted Budd.
Walker, who has been running third in fundraising for that race behind former Gov. Pat McCrory and Budd (R-Advance), has been asked to leave the race and make another bid for Congress, where he was elected to represent the old 6th Congressional District in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
A departure from the Senate race by Walker figures to benefit Budd – for his part Budd said last month that he “plans to win” either way – and Walker said Trump has offered him an endorsement in a bid for Congress. They met last month at Trump’s home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Walker’s announcement about his event, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Greensboro Auto Auction on Wendover Avenue, didn’t reveal his intentions – whether to stay in the Senate race or drop out – but it did mention Trump’s offer to endorse him for a run for the House and also the prominent backers he has in his race for the Senate.
Politico Playbook last week suggested that Trump was having “regrets about his June endorsement of Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) for Senate.” But later on Monday evening, Trump addressed that issue with a strongly worded statement to reinforce his support for Budd.
“Ted Budd, who I endorsed many months ago for U.S. Senate, is now leading the pack in North Carolina,” the release from Trump said. “He is the true America First fighter who stands tall for the Second Amendment, fights for our great Military and Law Enforcement and has tremendous courage fighting against the Woke Mob who wants to destroy America. I am proud of him, and he is going to win big.”
Neither Walker nor Budd nor McCrory is a formal candidate to replace retiring Richard Burr in the Senate. The NC Supreme Court delayed the primary election and the candidate filing period while lawsuits challenging the state voting maps can work their way through the courts.
Last week the General Assembly took that further and delayed the primary from May (where the court had scheduled it) until June 7, to allow time for the maps to be official and for elections officials to publish them. The bill also moves back the candidate filing period to March 24-April 1.
For a couple of days in December – before the court’s delay – candidates were filing in various races. Five other Republicans did submit paperwork to be on the ballot for Senate: Jen Banwart of Holly Springs, Lee A. Brian of Clayton, Benjamin E. Griffiths of Cleveland, Charles Kenneth Moss of Randleman and Lichia Sibhatu of Raleigh.
Two Democrats – Constance “Lov” Johnson of Charlotte and Rett Newton of Beaufort – also have filed, but former Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is considered the prohibitive favorite to win that nomination. Beasley has been endorsed by virtually every prominent Democrat in the state and some nationally.
What about Congress?
The discussions about Walker have focused on the likelihood that he would run in the new 7th Congressional District, which includes the eastern portion of Guilford County – although not Walker’s residence – swaths of Davidson and Wake counties and all of Alamance, Randolph, Chatham and Lee counties.
There is no incumbent in that district, which is seen as leaning Republican, but it has drawn a lot of attention, although no candidate has filed in either party. Bo Hines, an ambitious political newcomer from Winston-Salem, had said he would run in this district, but he could move elsewhere if Walker enters this race. State Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford County), who lives in the district, said he decided against a run.
Walker actually lives in what would be the 11th District, a far-flung northern slice that includes Greensboro, northern Guilford County and then all of Rockingham, Surry and other northern and western counties. It also includes small areas of Watauga County, which has created a map with two “double-bunked” incumbents.
Those would be current 5th District Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk) and current 6th District Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro). Foxx is the only person who has filed to run. Manning has been mulling her plans while awaiting the courts to finalize the district maps.
Those maps, which have been challenged on the grounds that they are partisan gerrymanders designed to expand and enhance the GOP’s dominance in both Congress and the General Assembly, broke the 6th District, which had been comprised of Guilford County and Winston-Salem, into four districts.
The 10th District, where the incumbent, Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord), includes the southwestern corner of Guilford County, along with part of Davidson and other surrounding counties. Hudson is the only candidate to have filed in that race. Winston-Salem is part of the new 12th District, where Patrick McHenry (R-Denver) is the incumbent.
Not happy about the delay
When the General Assembly last week delayed the primary, it was done so against the protest of Democrats who said they thought a delay wasn’t necessary.
In fact, the five Democrats representing North Carolina in Congress — G. K. Butterfield, Deborah Ross, David E. Price, Alma Adams and Manning – issued a statement to encourage Gov. Roy Cooper to veto the bill.
Their statement called the delay “an unwarranted intrusion into the judicial process and pending litigation. Further, Republicans in the General Assembly are creating even more confusion for North Carolina voters in what was already a chaotic electoral process of their making.
“The Superior Court unanimously found that the Republican-led General Assembly intentionally gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts for partisan advantage. The North Carolina Supreme Court has scheduled arguments in the case for February 2. The General Assembly should refrain from any interference with the ongoing litigation and prepare to follow any future orders of the Court.
“We encourage Governor Cooper to veto this unnecessary legislation.”
Cooper had said before the vote by lawmakers that he didn’t see why the delay was necessary at this time. He has until the first of the week to issue that veto.
About the court case…
Of course all of this – Congressional candidates and the election timetable – are predicated on what the state Supreme Court might do with the challenge of the three lawsuits against the election districts. Maps created by the General Assembly were altered three times by the courts between 2015 and 2020.
Most of those challenges were based on disenfranchised voters, especially Black voters, but this case is focused on the politics of how the maps were drawn – the maps were adopted by the General Assembly on Nov. 5 on a strict party-line vote – and established the likelihood of a 10-4 or 11-3 edge for the GOP in Congress (it’s now 8-5, with the census adding a new district) and cementing advantages in the legislature that possibly could mean a return to a supermajority. A 3-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court earlier this month upheld the maps although they did acknowledge the partisan penciling.
The coming review by justices – oral arguments are scheduled for Feb. 2 – has become its own political football because of calls for a handful of justices to recuse themselves. They would be primarily Phil Berger Jr., whose father, Senate leader Phil Berger, is a named defendant in the suits, and Anita Earls, who helped found the Southern Coalition for Social Justice at Duke University that successfully challenged voting districts in recent years.
Neither of them – nor former legislator and current justice Tamara Barringer nor Sam Ervin IV, who is up for re-election – has indicated he or she would recuse. The court polices itself on these matters, and the debates about conflict are kept behind the doors of those chambers. The court has a 4-3 Democratic majority.
But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from issuing a spirited series of statements challenging Earls on the basis of prior public comments and support from, among others, former White House Chief of Staff Eric Holder, who works to expand voting rights on a national basis.
Those statements are being issued under the names of various individuals, and one of the Triad’s representatives, state Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance), has issued at least two of them.
“Far-left ideologues like Justice Earls behave so egregiously, in this instance by hearing a case brought her campaign megadonor, while pretending to be righteous warriors. The hypocrisy is sickening,” the statement from the Senate Republican Press quoted Galey as saying.
- State Rep. Allen McNeill, (R-Asheboro) announced he would not seek a sixth term in the House District 78 and endorsed Randolph County resident David Ashley to replace him. Ashley spent nearly 30 years in law enforcement, serving as a special agent to the North Carolina SBI Alcohol Law Enforcement agency and for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- All three of those prominent GOP Senate candidates have come under fire for their stances against abortion rights in a release from American Bridge, which is campaigning for Democratic candidates ahead of midterm elections. Budd, McCrory and Walker are among Senate candidates in 11 states whose records were attacked by the group.
- A sitting Republican senator from North Carolina, Thom Tillis, said during debate last week about ending the filibuster in the Senate that he would resign if such an action were taken, even by his own party. “The day the Republicans change the filibuster is the day that I resign from the Senate,” Tillis said from the chamber’s podium. He said he had taken that same position when Trump wanted the GOP to end the filibuster, which is a tool used to keep most legislation from passing without 60 supporting votes. Senate Democrats have discussed ending the procedure to help them use their 51-50 margin to pass legislation.