On Saturday, former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro officially joined the race for the Republican nomination for N.C. governor.

Walker’s announcement makes him the third candidate in the primary race, with Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and N.C. Treasurer Dale Folwell already in. Walker served as the representative for N.C.’s Sixth Congressional District, elected in 2014. He served as the chair of the House Republican Conference. Walker highlighted his conservatism, but also his ability to unite people with differing views.

A former Baptist pastor, Walker made the announcement at Triad Baptist Church in Kernersville.

Walker enters the race as Robinson emerges as the candidate to beat. Endorsed by Sen. Ted Budd, R-NC, Robinson is polling above Walker and Folwell in a Civitas poll of 700 likely Republican primary voters.

Robinson led with 43% of the vote, followed by Walker at 9%, state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler at 8%, and State Treasurer Dale Folwell at 4%. However, in that poll 42% of women and 31% of men remaining undecided on the N.C. governor candidate.

Walker told supporters that the campaign season will give him a chance to emerge as the best Republican candidate to win a general election, not just the Republican primary. Winner of the Republican primary will likely face current N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein.

“All eyes are on this state,” Walker said. “We need a candidate who can hold up to a level of scrutiny not seen for the chief executive in North Carolina because they are coming after us. Josh Stein and the Democrats are already leaking out that they plan to raise $60 million.”

Recently, Democrats have tried to capitalize on the Republican-led legislature’s override of Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of SB20, the bill, now law, that restricts abortion in the second and third trimesters. Minutes after the votes, Cooper sent out blast texts with links to donate to Democrats, and criticizing Republicans.

Last week, Walker joined other pastors to support Republican lawmakers’ decision to override the veto of SB20. He has advocated for school choice and opportunity scholarships.

Walker did not run for re-election to Congress in 2020 after the district lines were re-drawn to be Democrat-leaning. He finished third in the Republican primary race for U.S. Senate in 2020, a post ultimately won by Budd after he defeated Democrat Cheri Beasley.

Following that primary loss, Walker led an effort called “Win the Courts,” traveling by bus across the state in support of Republicans in the six 2022 judicial races. Republicans won in all of those contests. He also launched a group called Advancing Hope Consulting.

“I’m driven, and the reason we’ve stayed in the political arena is because I want all of our communities to hear about individualism, hear about these conservative ideals. Because we believe this is really the foundation of America,” Walker said in a Carolina Journal interview earlier this year. “If we are going to be able to continue to be this prosperous, most generous, philanthropic nation that’s ever existed, those core principles have to be maintained and they have to be protected.”