GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — There was a revival on Thursday night at the Greensboro Auto Auction, a rousing resurrection of the sometimes-called-dead Senate campaign for Republican Mark Walker.
Walker, admittedly encouraged by powerful Republicans to drop out of the race and try for a seat in the Congress he had served for six years, instead dropped the shroud off a brand new bus that touted “Mark Walker for U.S. Senate” on the side.
It was just one small part of a nearly 2-hour show for maybe 500 almost entirely maskless supporters who flocked into the showroom where used cars come and go to see and hear a familiar if reinvigorated message from Walker, the Greensboro resident who some have said he doesn’t have a chance to beat either former Gov. Pat McCrory or 13th District Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) in the primary for the seat being vacated by retiring Richard Burr.
Walker, son of a minister and a former Baptist minister himself, held forth in the race for one reason that everyone who participated in this service reinforced in one way or another: He works for God, and God wants him in the race.
And never doubt that this was a worship service of sorts, not that the applauding and cheering throng of friends, family, candidates and dignitaries were worshiping Walker. They simply were reinforcing their belief in him and the purpose with which he had conducted his political career, the one born of a wild idea in 2012 that led him in November 2014 to serve the 6th Congressional District, which he also did in 2016 and 2018.
It is a race for Congress that former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence and other powerful Republicans had preached to Walker. He visited Mar-A-Lago Club in Florida to meet with Trump last month, because Trump endorsed Budd and wanted Walker in another race, perhaps the open 7th District. He said he got a phone call from Pence. He heard from others.
But on Thursday night he told them all a very loud and enthusiastic “no.” He is staying in the Senate race, and he’s in it because he believes people support who he is and what he does and that, yes, because God wants him there.
That’s where this revival took on the power of rejuvenation you expect. This one had spiritual music by a brother-sister duo from Colfax called “Guilford.” There was Scripture cited, both Proverbs and Psalms. There was a long and powerful prayer from a minster. There was a national anthem, the pledge of allegiance and testimony that was both cheerful and moving.
Summerfield Mayor Tim Sessoms served as the worship leader, rousing the crowd and introducing the participants, including campaign workers past and present. “There’s lots of opposition,” said Elizabeth Smith, a longtime staffer. “But it’s God who is for us and with us.”
Then she read from Psalms 37: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”
That was the theme of the evening, and Walker’s wife, Kelly, a trauma nurse, tearfully choked back words as she told his familiar story of a life of what she called sacrifice and service that “”always put others first.
When Walker finally stood before the congregants, he was pure Baptist minister to his core, weaving his personal story with name-dropping anecdotes. He spoke of 45 days of trials and self-analysis on what to do about those powers influencing him to change races.
“When we stepped away from the House, we wanted to take our message across North Carolina, to the Senate,” Walker said. “We will stay on that path and keep working at this.”
3 key points
And finally he did what any good pastor does: He delivered three bullet points that those listening could take with them after the service.
“There are three things you need to serve you in Washington, D.C.,” Walker said. “You need a person of faith, a leader and a warrior.”
Then he described what each of those meant, reinforcing his faith in Jesus, his belief that you had to build bridges even when that “doesn’t get many clicks” and how you had to fight for the country and each other in what he called “spiritual warfare.”
He didn’t bash any Democrats by name, although he alluded to the familiar talking points of conservatives. He reinforced all the endorsements he had received, what he called the universal support of Republican sheriffs, about South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and TV pundit Mike Huckabee and about his ability to reach consensus with African American leaders who may not be registered Republicans.
“Can we win?” he said. “There’s not a doubt in my mind. “
Then as the crowd cheered he turned the microphone back to Sessoms, who sort of passed the collection plate. Walker, who says he doesn’t take superpac donations or special-interest contributions, has lagged McCrory and Budd significantly in fundraising.
“Mark has driven that Ford pickup truck from one side of North Carolina to the other,” Sessoms said. “Now it’s going to take money to get Mark on TV, take the campaign to the next level.
And, Sessoms pointed out, Walker has this bus that needs to be paid for. He pointed to digits on the side and how you could send a text to that number and then volunteer or contribute. The campaign needed both, he said.
“We have this bus, and we have to pay for the title and the insurance and the fuel. We need $46,432 for that,” Sessoms said. A couple of folks came in earlier and brought $1,000 checks. We need about 45 more of those and this bus can be paid for.”
As those hundreds of admirers filed out of the showroom, they passed a row of Walker 4 Senate t-shirts and lawn signs and magnets and campaign literature. They were being asked to spread the message and to throw in about $10 for each shirt. Many left with their hands full of everything.
And where was the candidate while they gathered the goodies?
Well he was back to being the pastor, standing near the backdoor and shaking hands with many of them as they left in to the cool winter night.