GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – For once the polls were right: Republican Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley stormed through crowded primaries and into a showdown for North Carolina’s about-to-be-vacant seat in the U.S. Senate.

Budd (R-Advance), who represents the 13th District in Congress, and Beasley, a former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, dominated their races even more than predicted in the final poll, with Budd winning with 58.63%, winning by more than 30 points. Beasley took 81.1% of the vote.

Budd’s primary challengers, former Gov. Pat McCrory (24.6%) and former Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro (9.2%) didn’t mount much of a challenge after Budd secured the endorsement of former President Donald Trump and $14 million in support from the super PAC Club For Growth, the latter a key that the challengers bemoaned on debate stages that Budd ignored.

Newcomer Marjorie Eastman, a veteran and author from Cary, finished 4th in the 14-person race, gaining around 3% of the vote in her first election, during which she raised a lot of money and twice shared the debate stage with the front-runners.

Spectrum News political anchor Tim Boyum moderates an hourlong debate between Republican U.S. Senate candidates Pat McCrory, Mark Walker and Marjorie Eastman at the Spectrum News studio in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, April 20, 2022. Candidate Ted Budd declined to participate in the debate. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

Beasley, who has raised more money in donations than all the other candidates in both parties, had a clear path to the nomination from among 11 candidates after chief challengers Jeff Jackson of Charlotte and Erica Smith of Gaston elected to seek Congressional nominations in the 14th and 1st Districts, respectively.

The results are unofficial and incomplete until all mail-in ballots are received and counted and the results certified by local and state election officials. Shannon Bray, a Libertarian from Apex, will be on the ballot on Nov. 8.

The seat is open because Richard Burr of Winston-Salem is retiring after three terms, chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee for five of those years. Burr did not endorse a candidate in the race.

“I will never waiver when it comes to fighting for the forgotten men and women of this country,” Budd said in his acceptance speech.

“I’m proud to be your nominee for the U.S. Senate,” Beasley said in a statement. “Because while Washington is divided the people here are not. While Washington focuses on special interests and corporate cronies, the people of North Carolina focus on working for our families and nurturing our communities. While Washington focuses on pointing fingers and passing blame, the people of North Carolina focus on working hard and getting things done.” 

Budd thanked McCrory and Walker for their service and their help to him during his career. He asks for “their prayers, their support and their vote this fall.” He also thanked Eastman for her service to the country.

Budd found his way to Congress in 2016 in a similar fashion: Buoyed by major support from Club For Growth, he won a 17-person primary in a decidedly Republican district with 20% of 31,706 votes cast. He pounded Democrat Bruce Davis in the general.

In 2018 he defeated current 6th District Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) by about 17,000 votes and was elected for a third time in 2020, he won more than 68% of nearly 400,000 votes cast, pounding Democrat Scott Huffman, who is running in the 8th District in November.

Budd has been a consistently conservative member of Congress and is part of the Freedom Caucus of extreme conservatives. He has voted with Trump and against his impeachment and joined the slate of GOP representatives to oppose sanctioning the 2020 election.

Budd also drew the endorsements of perhaps the most powerful Republican in North Carolina, state Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden), and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson of Greensboro, who will see the governor’s office in 2024.

“We need to come together and take back the Senate in November and to save this country,” Budd said.

Budd turned his celebratory moment into an immediate political attack on Beasley as the “most radical and liberal candidate ever had for Senate in North Carolina.” He attacked her for President Joe Biden’s policies and linking Beasley’s name to Biden’s.

“Under Joe Biden, America is woke and broke,” Budd said.

“Ted Budd is a Washington insider who is wrong for North Carolina,” North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Bobbie Richardson said in a statement. “He’s supported tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies that are making record profits, while backing plans that would make middle class families pay higher taxes and higher health care costs. Throughout his time in Congress, Budd has consistently put his own interests ahead of North Carolina’s working families, and that’s exactly why voters will send a battle-tested and independent leader like Cheri Beasley to the U.S. Senate this November.” 

McCrory, who served one term as governor before being defeated narrowly in 2016 by Gov. Roy Cooper, was seen as the most moderate among the candidates, but 60% of Republican voters had said they valued Trump’s endorsement.

Walker, who represented the 6th Congressional District from 2014 to 2019 before deciding not to run in a Democratic-leaning district, has been in the race the longest and eschewed overtures from Trump and others to leave the race and to seek a return to Congress. Saying that he was in the race because God wanted him there – he is a former minister – Walker restarted his campaign earlier this year, took bus rides all over the state but never was able to gain traction.

Beasley, a Tennessee native, is a former public defender who has worked her way through the court system to become the first Black woman elected to chief justice of the state Supreme Court, in 2016. She lost re-election in 2020 to Republican Paul Newby by 401 votes out of nearly 5.4 million cast in a race that had many recounts before she conceded.

The unofficial Senate results

The results with all 2,662 precincts counted:

Democrats

  • Cheri Beasley of Raleigh 81.1%
  • James L. Carr Jr. of Harrisburg 3.5%
  • Alyssia Rose-Katherine Hammond of Raleigh 3.4%
  • Marcus W. Williams 2.8%
  • Lov Johnson of Charlotte 2%
  • Rett Newton of Beaufort 1.6%
  • Chrelle Booker of Tryon 1.6%
  • B.K. Maginnis of Charlotte 1.1%
  • Robert Colon of Wilmington 1.1%
  • Greg Antoine of Fayetteville 0.9%
  • Tobias LaGrone of Greensboro 0.8%

Republicans

  • Ted Budd of Advance 58.6%
  • Pat McCrory of Charlotte 24.6%
  • Mark Walker of Greensboro 9.2%
  • Marjorie Eastman, Cary 2.9%
  • David Flaherty of Cameron 1%
  • Kenneth Harper Jr. of Archdale 0.9%
  • Jen Banwart of Fuquay Varina 0.4%
  • Charles Kenneth Moss of Randleman 0.4%
  • Leonard Bryant of Fayetteville 0.4%
  • Benjamin Griffiths of Cleveland 0.4%
  • Debora Tshiovo of Moravian Falls 0.4%
  • Lee Brian of Clayton 0.3%
  • Lichia Sibhatu of Raleigh 0.3%
  • Drew Bulecza of Lincolnton 0.3%