Rep. Ted Budd enters North Carolina U.S. Senate race

Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C., smiles as he speaks to his supporters at his election party in Bermuda Run, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, after defeating Kathy Manning in North Carolina's 13th Congressional District race. (AP Photo/Woody Marshall)

RALEIGH — North Carolina U.S. Rep. Ted Budd announced on April 28 that he will seek the Republican nomination for the 2022 Senate election.

The staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, first elected to Congress in 2016, aims to push back against what he considers a radical agenda under President Joe Biden.

In his announcement video, the 49-year-old highlighted his upbringing in Davie County, noted he is a proud shooting-range owner and said that he and his wife read Dr. Seuss books to their children and that “they turned out just fine.”

Budd is the third major GOP candidate to enter the race. Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker and former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory have also declared their Senate bids.

The congressman struggled in grade school with dyslexia, grew up on a farm and got an MBA from Wake Forest University. He worked for his family’s landscaping and janitorial business and created a company with his father that invested in agricultural businesses.

Budd went to Congress after getting the most votes in a 17-candidate GOP primary in 2016. He won the general election later that year and has been reelected twice.

He’s now looking to present himself as a political outsider with more relevant experience than his opponents.

“I’m the only one that brings a career in small business, not big government,” Budd said in a Wednesday afternoon interview. “I’ve made payroll; I’ve created jobs; I’ve felt the sting of high taxes; I’ve grown up on a family farm here in Davie County. I think I’m the only one that brings that combination to the race.”

Central to Budd’s campaign will be issues of immigration, religious liberty and the economy. But perhaps even more critical is the former president’s support.

Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara, has not yet ruled out a Senate run. Budd said he met with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago last Thursday and Friday and also communicated with Lara Trump last week.

“I can’t tell you what she’s going to decide personally, but I can tell you that she’s a good friend and we’re both very supportive of each other,” Budd said, noting he did not secure the former president’s endorsement as Trump gives space for his daughter-in-law to enter the contest if she so desires.

Bobbie Richardson, chairman of North Carolina’s Democratic Party, said in a statement that Budd is a “far-right Freedom Caucus extremist” who “followed Donald Trump off the election fraud cliff when he undermined our democracy, spread dangerous and false conspiracy theories, and fought to overturn the election results even after the violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th.”

In a statement, Walker welcomed Budd’s candidacy but took aim at McCrory by alluding to his 2008 and 2016 gubernatorial election defeats.

“All conservatives in North Carolina must stand together so we do not elect another establishment politician to the Senate who says one thing when running and does another when elected,” Walker said, adding that the party “must stay grounded in finally giving our state conservative leadership in the Senate and not gambling on a career politician who has lost more statewide races than he’s won.”

Including his primary victories, McCrory has won more statewide races than he’s lost. McCrory began his political career in 1989 on Charlotte’s city council and later became the city’s longest-serving mayor.

“Ted ran for office in 2016. Pat McCrory ran for office in 1989,” said Jonathan Felts, a childhood friend of Budd’s and senior adviser to the campaign. “If you want to label one of those a career politician, I think it’s pretty clear which one that would be.”