Opinion: The Woodshed

As candidate filing reopens Walker, Hines change plans

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, R-6th District, in 2017. (CJ file photo)
U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, R-6th District, in 2017. (CJ file photo)

This story was updated on December 6, 2021.

Former N.C. congressman Mark Walker, will drop his bid for the U.S. Senate and file for the newly drawn 7th Congressional District at the urging and with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, multiple sources confirmed for Carolina Journal on Saturday, December 4th.

Fox News’ headline confirming the report read,“Trump strikes deal in contentious North Carolina Senate GOP primary that may help Trump backed candidate Rep. Ted Budd.”

According to his campaign, Walker had been taking numerous calls urging him to shift gears and try instead to return to the U.S. House.  He served in the House from 2015 to 2020, representing North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District, centered in the Triad, after winning an open contest in 2014 to replace longtime Republican congressman Howard Coble.

“I’m proud of my record of public service and accomplishment advancing conservative legislation in the U.S. House,” Walker told CJ at the time.

During his time on Capitol Hill, Walker became the youngest chairman ever of the Republican Study Committee, a coalition of conservative members of the GOP caucus. When court-ordered redistricting in 2019 transformed his district into one much friendlier to Democrats, the incumbent decided not to seek re-election in 2020.

Walker has previously represented much of the new 7th Congressional District, anchored in Guilford County but now including Alamance, Lee, Chatham, Davidson, Randolph, and part of southwestern Wake County. Walker told CJ in November that he lives within a “couple” of miles of the 7th District line. Members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation do not have to reside within a congressional district either to run for the seat or to represent it in Washington.

“Donald Trump brokered a deal this weekend to clear the North Carolina GOP Senate field for Rep. Ted Budd, the candidate he endorsed in June but who has failed to emerge so far as the clear frontrunner,” Politico also reported.

Carolina Journal has seen no public polling or data that indicate Walker changing course and running for House would change the race significantly to boost Budd or McCrory. Both campaigns have opined in recent weeks privately to Carolina Journal that Walker dropping out of the race could help their campaign, but neither described it as a major or “game-changing” event.

“We plan to win either way,” Ted Budd (R-Davie), told WGHP. “He has been polling at 8 to 10%. It would be a net positive for us.”

“Our polls show that Gov. McCrory’s large lead expands in this scenario,” McCrory campaign adviser Jordan Shaw told Fox News. “That’s because Walker’s supporters want someone who isn’t bought, paid for, wholly owned and operated by a D.C. special interest group. That obviously eliminates Congressman Budd and benefits Gov. McCrory.”

“Trump offered Walker the endorsement, and it’s expected to get rolled out this week,” said Jack Minor, Walker’s former chief of staff according to Politico.

Sources connected to Walker tell Carolina Journal that Walker has resisted requests from Trump and others to endorse Congressman Budd in the race for U.S. Senate at this time. Walker has also not endorsed former Governor McCrory, indicating that he may remain neutral in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, now that he is exiting the race.

Minor also confirmed that Republican congressional candidate Bo Hines, will receive Trump’s endorsement as well to run in the 4th Congressional District. On May 8th Carolina Journal reported Hines had filed FEC paperwork to run in North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District, a district that was then considered an “open seat” after 13th District Congressman Ted Budd announced his plans to run for U.S. Senate. The former N.C. State and Yale football player grew up in Iredell County and his fiancé is also from there, giving him a connection to the current 13th district.

“I am excited to be running in the 13th,” said Hines. “I think this change is best for a party that will now avoid an intense primary fight. This is where my roots are, and it is a welcome chance to come home.”

As of Monday, Hines has not publicly confirmed the CJ or Politico reports that he would be changing districts once again, this time with former President Trump’s endorsement in the newly drawn Johnston/Harnett/Cumberland-based 4th Congressional District. Hines twitter profile and Facebook page still list him as candidate for NC-7.

Candidate filing was blocked just minutes before filing opened, on Monday, December 6, by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals led by former Democratic State House Minority leader Darren Jackson, who was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Gov. Roy Cooper after the 2020 election.

The full N.C. Court of Appeals overturned the three-judge panel’s order blocking congressional and legislative candidate filing later on Monday evening. Filing can proceed until the full 15-member court considers challenges to new state election maps.