Just one day after Congressman Ted Budd announced he would in fact run for the U.S. Senate, the soon-to-be-open 13th Congressional District already has Republican candidates eyeing the GOP-leaning seat.

Former Davidson County Commissioner Zak Crotts tells Carolina Journal he is exploring a possible run for Congress in the district.

“It is something that I am thinking about, talking to people and seeing where things go. Of course, we have to see what the district looks like. I have always had a desire to serve others. I did so in the military and within the Republican party as well as an elected official in Davidson County. If I don’t run, I will do as I have in the past: work day and night to keep this seat in Republican hands.”

Crotts has talked to Congressman Budd to let him know about his interest.

Crotts, 38, is the owner and CEO of Spartan Insurance Group and Zak Crotts Realty. He graduated from Central Davidson High School and studied accounting at Davidson County Community College. He is the former chairman of the NCGOP 13th Congressional District and is currently the treasurer for the North Carolina Republican Party. Crotts served one term as a Davidson County Commissioner, elected as the youngest person in Davidson County to ever serve in that position.

Crotts, a veteran of the National Guard, is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, a position that became stronger after a scare with his kids.

“Several years ago, I was at a Chinese restaurant in Lexington, N.C. with my children, getting something to eat, and suddenly the restaurant was being robbed,” he said. “I realized what was going on near the cash register and I had to get my daughter and son under the table on my side of the table and kind of turn sideways to try and shield my children if something were to happen.”

Crotts immediately signed up for a gun safety course to obtain his concealed carry permit.

While a commissioner, Crotts led the effort to pass a resolution for Davidson County to become a “Second Amendment protection county.” He also joined other commissioners in preventing a property tax increase, despite the call for more amenities by some in the county.

Crotts says he will focus his work on downsizing the federal government, if he were to win the congressional seat. “The Federal Government has reached way beyond what our forefather’s set out in our Constitution and it’s past time we give power back to the states,” said Crotts.

Crotts says he has a long history of supporting the right to life and other conservative causes, and at times jokes about having a key similarity to the late Senator Jesse Helms. “You can agree or disagree with me, but at least you will know where I stand,” said Crotts.

The open seat is likely to draw a long list of Republican candidates. Former N.C. State Football receiver Bo Hines, profiled by Carolina Journal in February, tells CJ he is currently “focused on his campaign in the 5th Congressional District,”  which is currently held by Rep. Virginia Foxx,  but was keeping “all options open” on a possible shift to run in the open 13th depending on how the districts are drawn.

In 2016, when the 13th was newly redrawn, it drew more GOP candidates than players on an average ACC basketball team, 17.  Next year’s 13th District GOP primary is likely to be just as competitive.

The Cook Political Report lists the current 13th Congressional District as having a Partisan Voter Index of +20 for the GOP. The Cook PVI measures how each district performs at the presidential level compared to the nation as a whole. Trump defeated both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton in the 13th by more than 30%. Trump won North Carolina overall by a couple of points.

North Carolina will elect an additional 14th member of the U.S. House in 2022.

The 13th Congressional District, the only existing district at this point that will not have an incumbent, could change significantly in redistricting.