Senate ad emphasizes lieutenant governor backing of Budd

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R-N.C.) reacts to the crowd after speaking at a rally for former President Donald Trump Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Selma, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

RALEIGH — North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson endorses Ted Budd for next month’s U.S. Senate Republican primary in a new commercial in which he also criticizes the state GOP’s former standard bearer, ex-Gov. Pat McCrory.

Robinson appears in an ad from the Club for Growth Action super PAC, which began airing it on statewide television Wednesday, group spokesperson Joe Kildea said.

The committee plans to spend $1.3 million over two weeks running the commercial on TV, Kildea said — part of the $14 million it said it was prepared to spend in the North Carolina primary. The group already has reported spending several million dollars, largely to support Budd and oppose McCrory in the race.

The testimonial by Robinson, a recent rising force among North Carolina Republicans, sticks to themes of other ads associated with Washington-based Club for Growth Action that have portrayed McCrory as liberal.

“Now look, I voted for Pat McCrory in the past, but not this time. Pat’s a nice guy, but he’s no conservative,” Robinson says in the ad, calling Budd, a current U.S. House member, the “principled, conservative choice for U.S. Senate.”

Robinson, elected the state’s first black lieutenant governor in 2020, had already announced his endorsement of Budd earlier this month at Donald Trump’s rally in Johnston County, where the former president stumped for Budd and other candidates in GOP races he had already backed.

The Robinson ad also repeated recent criticism that McCrory appointed several registered Democrats to the state textbook commission while he was governor.

Robinson, a likely candidate for governor in 2024, has been an outspoken advocate of efforts to limit what conservatives call racial indoctrination or “critical race theory” in classrooms.

“Pat put liberals in charge of state textbooks,” Robinson says in the ad.

State law says the governor appoints commission members based on the recommendations of the state school superintendent, who was Democrat June Atkinson during McCrory’s tenure as governor from 2013 through 2016.

“The governor’s involvement is basically a formality of following state statute,” McCrory said in an interview with WRAL-TV, which first reported on the commercial. “Maybe the new lieutenant governor doesn’t know that law.”

McCrory accused the super PAC of “trying to steal this election through deception.”

Robinson told the TV station that McCrory could have done more to block the Democratic appointments.

By endorsing Budd, Robinson also had to turn away from formally backing former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker in the 14-candidate primary. The two are friends, both from Guilford County.

“It was something I really had to pray about,” Robinson told WRAL. “It was something I did not take lightly because me and him have been very close.”

The GOP primary winner likely will take on former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who is the front-runner in the May 17 Democratic primary race, this fall.