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GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Republican Ted Budd has ridden his relentless “Bidenflation” campaign message into a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Budd, a gun-shop owner from Advance who has represented the 13th Congressional District since 2016, overcame the big dollars advantage of Democrat Cheri Beasley and will be North Carolina’s new senator. NewsNation called the race at about 11:30 p.m.

Budd, who earned 50.78% of the unofficial vote to Beasley’s 47.07%, with 99% precincts reporting, will succeed retiring Republican Richard Burr of Winston-Salem and serve alongside Thom Tillis as voters chose a Republican for the Senate for the fourth consecutive election. Not since Kay Hagan won in 2008 has an NC Democrat held a Senate seat.

Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) greets supporters with his wife, Amy Kate Budd, left, after winning his U.S. Senate race against Cheri Beasley at his election night watch party in Winston-Salem, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Libertarian Shannon Bray, a Department of Defense employee from Apex, received 1.36% and Green Party candidate Matthew Hoh, a retired State Department employee from Wake Forest, was chosen by .78%. The results are based on 99% of precincts reporting and are neither official nor final.

Budd protected a seat for the GOP in its effort to reclaim control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 2016. Incumbent Democrats, who hold a 51-50 edge in the Senate, are in danger of losing close races in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada.

“Thank you to the people of North Carolina,” Budd said. “Amy Kate and I are humbled and honored you have selected me to serve you as North Carolina’s next US Senator. Campaigning in all 100 counties across our state, I’ve seen first-hand folks suffering under Joe Biden’s economic policies that are crushing family budgets. Biden and his allies want more FROM you and I want more FOR you.

“With their votes today, the people of North Carolina have sent a clear signal that the Biden agenda is wrong for America. It’s time to start creating jobs again instead of destroying jobs and I’m ready to fight for that in the US Senate.”

Beasley, former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, and Budd had been locked in a tight race that generated millions of dollars in donations and millions more in television ads purchased by SUPER Pacs.

But Budd seldom trailed in head-to-head polls after both easily won their large primaries in May. He had expanded his advantage to about 5 points in the most recent Emerson College Polling/The Hill/WGHP Poll. Voters said they principally were focused on the economy, including inflation, jobs and taxes.

“I’m so proud of the race we have run,” Beasley said in conceding the race. “I’m proud that all along we stayed true to our mission – that this would be a race about the people, not politics. Even when others didn’t, we believed in North Carolina – and I do still. 

“This isn’t the outcome we wanted, but we have made history in North Carolina. Tonight, I’m thinking of all those before me who blazed their own trails so that I could reach the end of this one.”

Budd hammered Beasley based on his view of the performance of President Joe Biden, whose popularity numbers in North Carolina are below 40%. He cited Biden’s policies, hammered Beasley as just another proponent of those policies and threw in jabs at her record as a judge and lawyer as being soft on crime and anti-police, both of which she refuted.

In their lone debate, on Oct. 7, Budd tied Beasley to Joe Biden at every turn and said that “Joe Biden is on the ballot on Nov. 8.” Beasley countered by assailing Budd for his voting records on the very issues he raised and for his tie to former President Donald Trump, whose early endorsement of Budd helped propel him to the nomination.

Budd and Beasley showed on the debate stage that they were not polished politicians. They sometimes grasped for their trains of thought and sometimes paused to clarify language before usually returning to those two most tested weapons.

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C., and Democratic challenger Cheri Beasley, shake hands after their televised debate, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, at Spectrum News 1 studio in Raleigh, N.C. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP, Pool)

They crisscrossed the state, each claiming to have visited all 100 counties, and assailed one another to voters. Budd made Biden and inflation the reason for just about every issue, from crime to the future of Social Security and Medicare to global instability.

Beasley hammered Budd’s commitment to democracy because he has supported former Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, which led to the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol.

And they disagreed on abortion rights, with Beasley supporting Roe v. Wade and Budd signing on as a sponsor for a 15-week national abortion limit proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).

Both candidates did more finger-pointing than policy suggesting. Each benefitted from ads that stretched the truth. Both tried to make points about issues that voters didn’t necessarily care about, such as immigration and climate change.

Both said we need to secure our borders and have stronger controls for legal immigration. Budd says the U.S. needs to keep out the criminal element. Beasley agrees but also says there is a need for a visa system that provides workers for farmers.

Budd had chastised Beasley for not appearing with President Biden or his cabinet members during visits to the state (Biden made one, to Greensboro earlier this year), and she countered by attacking his relationship with Trump.

“My style is distinctly North Carolina. … I’m not running away from his endorsement,” Budd said in the debate. “He endorsed me because I am an ‘America first’ candidate.”

Budd also voted to overturn the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021, “to create more debate.” Beasley said Budd labeled the insurrectionists as “just patriots.”

“Joe Biden is president,” Budd said during their debate. “I wish he weren’t.”