Speaking to a sold-out N.C. Republican Party Convention fundraiser, former President Donald Trump made an early endorsement in the 2022 primary for U.S. Senate, choosing 13th District Congressman Ted Budd over former Congressman Mark Walker and former Gov. Pat McCrory.

“This gentleman is going to be your next senator,” Trump said of Budd. “He is going to be someone you are so proud of. He will fight like hell, and a lot of you people don’t know him that well yet, but you will in about two minutes — Ted Budd.”

As Trump called Budd to the convention stage, he added, “I am giving him my complete and total endorsement. We are going to work with him. We are going to campaign with him.”

Budd joined Trump on stage and thanked the former President.

“Mr. President, Lara, this means the world to me,” Budd said. “We have a lot of work ahead, so let’s win this together, and let’s get back to making America great again.”

In a clear shot at McCrory, Trump said, “You can’t pick people who have already lost two races.”

McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, was defeated twice in statewide races for governor in 2008 and 2016. In between the two losses, McCrory became just the third Republican governor in modern N.C. history with his successful election to the governor’s mansion in 2012.

McCrory released a statement moments after Trump’s surprise endorsement. “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. Now, he’ll do even more to defeat President Trump’s agenda if he’s the Republican nominee by giving our seat in the U.S. Senate to Chuck Schumer and the Democrats. Ted Budd’s bought-and-paid-for Washington insider voting record is not electable in North Carolina. If supporters of President Trump want his agenda to be supported in the U.S. Senate, they should not vote for Ted Budd, who has opposed him at every turn – and who would lose to the far-left next November.”

Walker did not immediately comment on the Trump endorsement, but tweeted thanks to convention delegates for supporting him as the top choice in the convention straw poll.

“Thank you NCGOP delegates for selecting me as the best choice in the US Senate Republican primary,” said Walker “Together, we will take back Congress, stop the Biden-Harris agenda, & finally give NC a conservative senator.”

Fox News reported Budd was at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida, in April and talked with the former president about his likely bid for the Senate.

Moments before the Budd endorsement Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, a Wilmington native and graduate of N.C. State University, announced she would not run for U.S. Senate. She referenced her two young children.

“I am saying no for now, not no forever,” Lara Trump said from the stage. “At the right time, I would absolutely love to come back and consider running for something here in my home state because I love it dearly.”

Carolina Journal was the first media outlet to report Lara Trump would likely reject a U.S. Senate bid, way back on Feb. 1.

Budd is a graduate of  Davie County High School and Appalachian State University. He also earned his master’s degree in business administration from the Wake Forest University School of Business. He owns a gun store in Rural Hall.

Budd’s 13th Congressional District currently includes some high-performing GOP counties that would be key in the 2022 U.S. Senate primary, including all of Davidson and Davie counties and parts of Guilford Iredell, and Rowan counties.

In May Carolina Journal reported exclusively on an independent primary poll that showed McCrory leading the primary field.

The poll of likely 2022 GOP primary voters showed:

  • McCrory leading the field with 40% of the vote.
  • Walker was second with 10.5%.
  • Budd polled at 4.8%.
  • Forty-four percent of respondents said they were undecided.

Moments after Trump’s endorsement of Budd, Republican consultant Chris Sinclair, who is not involved in the U.S. Senate race, told CJ: “McCrory still has great numbers among GOP primary voters, the best numbers since Elizabeth Dole’s first run for U.S. Senate in 2002.”

“Does the Trump endorsement help Rep. Budd? Yes. Is it dispositive? No.”