GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Mark Walker is staying in the race for the Republican nomination for North Carolina’s soon-open U.S. Senate seat – at least for now.

Walker clarified that point at a rally with supporters Thursday night at the Greensboro Auto Auction.

Republican Senate candidate Mark Walker speaks during a congressional hearing in 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Walker, who was one of the first Republicans to announce he wanted to replace retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr, is fighting former Gov. Pat McCrory and current 13th District Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) along with a handful of lesser-known candidates who have filed to be on the ballot for the primary on June 7.

McCrory has been considered the front-runner in the race, and Walker’s status changed significantly last summer when former President Donald Trump endorsed Budd, an endorsement Trump reiterated with a statement released last week.

A departure from the race by Walker is seen by some observers as advantageous to Budd, and Walker has said he was asked by Trump and others to consider a switch to running for the House.

Trump met with Walker in Florida early last month, and Walker confirmed that Trump had offered his endorsement in the congressional race.

In a video statement released during the holidays Walker had said that he was considering his options but remaining in the Senate race. He has continued to attend events and tout his candidacy.

But the congressional option remains open. Walker had been elected to represent the eastern half of Greensboro and Guilford County and several surrounding counties in 2014, 2016 and 2018, but his best option for 2022 might be the new 7th Congressional District that the General Assembly adopted on Nov. 5.

  • Mark Walker keeps running for U.S. Senate nomination
  • Mark Walker keeps running for U.S. Senate nomination

That district as drawn includes eastern Guilford County, eastern Davidson County, all of Alamance, Randolph, Chatham and Lee Counties and small western corner of Wake County. There is no incumbent and figures to lean Republican.

Walker’s home in Greensboro does not fall within the district’s lines, but residence is not required in Congressional races.

That congressional map, though, is being challenged in court – as are the legislative maps – because critics say they unfairly enhance the GOP’s control in both Washington – perhaps by 10-4 or 11-3 margins – and in Raleigh, despite an electorate that is almost evenly split between Democrats and non-Democrats.

The NC Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Wednesday to hear an appeal of a ruling by a 3-judge panel in Wake County that the maps, although a partisan gerrymander, were constitutionally valid.

In the 7th District, Bo Hines of Winston-Salem, an ambitious first-time Republican candidate, has expressed interest in running, but state Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford County), who lives in the district, decided to forgo the race.

Before the Supreme Court delayed the period for all elections, five other Republicans and two Democrats had qualified in that district. The Republicans are 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. Among Democrats Constance “Lov” Johnson of Charlotte and Rett Newton of Beaufort are in the race, but former Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is considered the prohibitive favorite to win that nomination.

Walker’s home would be in the new 11th District, but that district, which, along with Greensboro and northwestern Guilford County, includes a wide span of northern and western counties, already has two incumbents: current 5th District Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk) and current 6th District Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro). Foxx has filed to run, but Manning is waiting to see how the court rules on the electoral maps.

The southwestern portion of Guilford County would be in the new 10th District, where Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord) is the incumbent and has filed to run.

Trump responded to public speculation that he was not happy with his endorsement of Budd by releasing this statement: “Ted Budd, who I endorsed many months ago for U.S. Senate, is now leading the pack in North Carolina. 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.”