RALEIGH — There’s a scene in the TV series The West Wing’s third season that features the fictionalized president Jed Barlett and White House communications director Toby Ziegler in a tense Oval Office meeting. In the scene, Ziegler is worried about the perceived appeal of the president’s re-election opponent, telling him, “He’s good for all time zones.”
This appeal could also sum up supporters’ core case for three-term U.S. Rep. Ted Budd in the upcoming 2022 Republican U.S. Senate primary.
Budd calls himself a family man, small businessman and “liberal agenda crusher,” complete with a monster truck starring in his campaign announcement video.
In his third congressional term, Budd has established a strongly conservative voting record. He opposed efforts to bring back congressional earmarks, saying, “Nothing epitomizes what’s wrong with Washington more than pork-barrel spending in the form of congressional earmarks.” He’s opposed sanctuary-city policies and sponsored several bills to reduce regulations on businesses. Just a month ago, he was one of just three North Carolina representatives to earn a “Taxpayers’ Friend Award” from the conservative National Taxpayers Union.
Budd is a native North Carolinian, born in Winston-Salem, but as a young child his family moved to a farm off the Yadkin River in Davie County, where his wife and three kids live today. It’s there, Budd says, he learned about hard work. He grew up on the family’s cattle and commercial chicken farm.
“I grew up working on the farm and my dad had started a janitorial service and landscaping company in Winston-Salem. So we all just grew up working. It was tough, but I loved it,” Budd says.
While in college at Appalachian State University, Budd was an unwitting witness to history.
“It was August 1991, and I was with a friend, and we were Christian missionaries delivering medical supplies to communist Soviet Union when the iron curtain came down,” Budd said. “We didn’t realize at the time how much chaos there was. And a week later we get home were able to see [what was happening] on TV.”
It was also through the mission trips where Budd met his wife, Amy Kate. He lived in Texas for four years and graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary and returned to North Carolina.
He started a company with his dad in that time after working in the family business, which was then prospering.
“We helped others in distribution — so companies that would sell to John Deere and other turf companies. We were more behind the scenes, helping them get going, and got on the Triad Business Journal Fast 50 list,” said Budd.
It was his next move, though, that became Budd’s most well-known venture.
In 2010, Budd purchased an indoor shooting range out of bankruptcy.
“It was 2010 and bought it for the Winston-Salem Police Department. They were driving cars to Thomasville and other places. They couldn’t own it, because it was attached to another shopping center and couldn’t shoot there,” Budd said, adding that it was a conversation with a department lieutenant that convinced him of the need to expand the range’s offerings.
“He said to me, ‘Never underestimate the need of the public to have a safe place to shoot.’ They [WSPD] were our only customers, and then we opened into retail. And now, we have more than 50,000 customers that have been to the store,” Budd says.
With a booming business, Budd says he learned about payroll, cash flow, balance sheets and everything it takes to make a small business work.
He also is adamant that similar to public service, in business, he doesn’t divide the customer base.
“I’m a 49-year-old white male. I would think, well, all [gun range] customers look like me. That’s stereotypical, and it’s wrong. On day one I saw the breadth of people across the political spectrum. People come that you would not think would align with you, and it’s like somebody going bowling; they’re coming to the shooting range,” says Budd.
He said it was those first two elections to Congress that show he is battle-tested enough to take on a statewide run for office.
“Having navigated a 17-way primary — I think that was significant. Nobody else [running for U.S. Senate] has been through a race like that. Then, also being outspent two to one by the Democrats in 2018, when they came after me with a wealthy self-funder [now Congresswoman Kathy Manning] plus outside money trying to take me out, I think differentiates me,” Budd says.
It’s an argument that Budd is now taking across the state, touting his background, voting record and bills he’s authored to help get the economy moving. He was at the General Assembly on Tuesday, June 1, alongside state legislators, pitching his federal-level bill to incentive bonuses to get North Carolinians back to work.
“Ted has a unique ability in politics in that the more you get to know him, the more you like him,” said childhood friend Jonathan Felts, who is helping advise Budd’s Senate campaign. “I’m not knocking anybody, but a lot of politicians, the more you know them, the less you like them.”