HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) – The final debate among frontrunners for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate is tonight.

Former Gov. Pat McCrory and former Rep. Mark Walker will be in front of the cameras at 7 p.m. in the studios of FOX8 WGHP in High Point for the final debate before early voting begins on Thursday. McCrory and Walker are among the top four out of the 14 Republicans who have filed for the race – there are also 11 Democrats and a Libertarian seeking the seat.

And once again the race’s front-runner, Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), will not participate in questioning in his bid to replace retiring Republican Richard Burr of Winston-Salem. Budd has skipped all of the debates.

Author Marjorie Eastman of Cary, a newcomer to politics, has joined them on two occasions, but tonight’s participants were chosen based on the WGHP/The Hill/Emerson College Poll that showed Budd with a 38% of the support from likely Republican voters, followed by former Gov. McCrory (22%) and former Rep. Walker (9%). Eastman drew only 1.5% in the poll and did not meet the threshold to qualify.

Ted Budd is focused on finishing his 100 county tour of NC before the Primary so he can speak directly to voters in all 100 counties and ask for their votes,” Budd’s spokesman, Jonathan Felts, write in an email on Friday. “Some candidates like to look voters in the eye and ask for their votes, while other candidates prefer the comfort and convenience of TV studios and media personalities. Ted has a day job, fighting the Biden Agenda in Congress, so we have to balance out talking directly to voters in all 100 counties and  Congressional votes. Ted chooses talking directly with voters and fighting the woke Biden agenda over talking to other candidates who probably won’t vote for Ted in the Primary.” 

Republican Congressman Ted Budd speaks at a Make America Great Again rally in Greensboro International Airport, in Greensboro, North Carolina on October 27, 2020. (Photo by Grant BALDWIN / AFP) (Photo by GRANT BALDWIN/AFP via Getty Images)
Republican Congressman Ted Budd (Photo by Grant BALDWIN / AFP) (Photo by GRANT BALDWIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Budd has led in every poll, and he has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, which WGHP’s poll shows matters to about 6 out of 10 Republicans. About a third of voters, though, have said they are undecided.

His absences from the debates have drawn pointed comments from the other candidates largely because Budd has significant support from the conservative super PAC Club for Growth, which funded his election to Congress in 2016 and has promised at least $14 million toward his election to the Senate.

“He hasn’t attended the three previous debates, and he probably won’t attend the last one,” McCrory said last week of events sponsored by the John Locke Foundation, WRAL-TV and Spectrum. “Ted Budd is so dependent on endorsements because he has no record to run on.”

Said Walker: “If Mr. Budd doesn’t have the courage to face Republican candidates, how the heck is he going to go against [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer and [presumptive nominee] Cheri Beasley?”

Budd’s absence likely will be a topic tonight, but tonight’s debate, moderated by WGHP’s Bob Buckley and WNCN-TV’s Rod Carter and hosted by Ann Wyatt Little from Queen City News in Charlotte, will address questions about infrastructure, the economy, foreign policy and other important topics impacting North Carolinians.

The program will run 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. You can watch “Your Local Election Headquarters: North Carolina Republican Primary U.S. Senate Debate” on TV on:

  • WGHP-TV FOX8 (FOX) in Greensboro
  • WJZY-TV (FOX) in Charlotte
  • WNCN-TV (CBS) in Raleigh
  • WSPA-TV (CBS) in Spartanburg, South Carolina
  • WAVY-TV (NBC) in Norfolk, Virginia
  • WNCT-TV (CBS) in Greenville
  • WWAY-TV (CBS) in Wilmington

You can also watch the livestream online by visiting the website of your local Nexstar station, including: