GREENVILLE — Former President Donald Trump officially backed three-term U.S. Rep. Ted Budd in the state’s 2022 Republican Senate primary, giving a massive boost to Budd, who announced in April he would seek the open seat.
Trump teased the endorsement in an exclusive interview with NSJ, but did not reveal the name of his choice until his speech at June 5’s NCGOP convention dinner.
He first brought his daughter-in-law Lara Trump to the stage and anticipation mounted among the guests in the room. A North Carolina native, she was said to be considering a run for a number of months and led most public and private polls that included her.
Citing two young children and a desire to only run if she could commit 100% to it, she said she was saying, “not ‘no’ forever, but ‘no’ for now,” on a run for office in her home state.
Adding to the suspense, Mrs. Trump said, “I came because there is a very special person who is going to do an amazing job as your next senator, that he is going to announce tonight here in this room. I can promise you this: just because my name is not on the ballot does not mean I am not fighting every step of the way with you. We have to have a person in that Senate seat who represents North Carolina and is going to lead this country in the right direction.”
As the former president returned to the stage, he said the person he was endorsing hasn’t been pushing him at all and would “fight like hell,” then announced that person was Budd.
“Ted, please come up,” said Trump, as the crowd alternated cheers and gasps at the timing and surprise of the announcement. “I am giving him my complete and total endorsement. We’re going to work with him. You can’t pick people that have already lost two races and do not stand for our values. So I’m going with Congressman Ted Budd,” said Trump before turning the podium over to Budd.
“Wow, Mr. President, thank you so much,” Budd said to the crowd. “This means the world to me. Thank you. We got a lot of hard work ahead. So let’s win this together, and let’s get back to making America great again.”
Immediately following the speech, former Gov. Pat McCrory released a lengthy statement, saying that Trump had been given “bad advice” and excoriated Budd.
In part, the statement read, “I’m disappointed that President Trump has endorsed a Washington insider who has done more to oppose the Trump agenda than anyone in this race. We will win this race — the primary and the general. Ted Budd opposed President Trump’s plan to secure the border, to support our farmers, to repeal Obamacare, and he even voted against President Trump’s COVID vaccines.”
Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, who campaigned to win the convention “straw poll,” said, “Together, we will take back Congress, stop the Biden-Harris agenda, & finally give NC a conservative senator.”
The Democrats running for the seat united in opposition.
Former N.C. Supreme Court chief justice Cheri Beasley said, “Donald Trump thinks he can pick who’s best for NC, but the truth is that Ted Budd is more focused on impressing Trump & his cronies than standing up for what’s best for NC.”
The normally verbose state Sen. Jeff Jackson tweeted simply, “bring it Ted,” and former state Sen. Erica Smith, who had already attacked Budd in fundraising emails before the endorsement, said, “Twice impeached, banned on social media, disgraced former President endorses corporate lackey and insurrection apologist.”
The event already paid off for Budd, however, with a campaign spokesman saying fundraising and offers to help the campaign came in immediately.
Party leaders were caught off guard at the announcement as well, but pledged to remain neutral in the race until the March 2022 primary.