Former President Donald Trump granted an endorsement to Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) for U.S. Senate while speaking at the North Carolina Republican Party convention Saturday evening, saying Budd will “fight like hell” as he seeks to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC).
Trump vowed to campaign for Budd, who he chose out of several Republican candidates in an already-packed primary field ahead of what is likely to be a competitive general election race in the battleground state.
Budd announced his intentions to run in April, releasing a video featuring Trump and evoking the former president’s “America first” tagline in his campaign message.
“This gentleman is going to be your next senator. He’s going to be somebody that you’re going to be so proud of,” Trump said. “He will fight like hell. … He will fight like nobody fights, and a lot of you don’t know him that well, but you’re going to know him probably within about two minutes,” he added as he welcomed Budd to the stage.
The former president also quashed rumors that his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, was considering running. Lara Trump, a native North Carolinian who served as senior adviser to her father-in-law while he was at the White House, was present at the event and he invited her to speak prior to making his endorsement. “Because of my two kids, who are very young, one and three, Carolina and Luke, it is going to be hard for me to enter this Senate race right now,” Lara Trump announced.
She made clear that her decision was a “no for now not no forever” before alluding to her support for Budd. “I came here tonight with my father-in-law because there is a very special person who is going to do an amazing job as your next senator from the state of North Carolina that he is going to announce tonight here in this room,” she said.
After Lara and Donald Trump both spoke, Budd gave thank you remarks to the crowd and zoned in on his work with Lara last year.
“In 2020, Lara, we fought together. We fought to help Thom Tillis win. We fought to keep the North Carolina legislature. We fought for North Carolina judges. You’re a heck of a teammate, and you’d be a heck of a senator,” he said. “Mr. President, Lara, this means the world to me. Thank you.”
Others who have also formally launched Senate campaigns include former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC). McCrory expressed his displeasure with the endorsement in a statement on social media, calling Budd a “Washington insider” and bashing his voting record:
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.
— Pat McCrory (@PatMcCroryNC) June 6, 2021
Budd, a gun store owner from Davie County, has served in Congress since 2017. NumbersUSA, which grades congressmembers on their “Immigration-Reduction Report Card” based on voting record, gives Budd a career-long A+. On coronavirus management, Budd repeatedly advocated to “reopen America” and pushed for more Americans “to be vaccinated as quickly as possible” in the early stages of the vaccine distribution.
Trump appeared to make a veiled jab at McCrory, who was defeated in 2008 in his race for governor and then again in his 2016 reelection campaign, during his speech on Saturday, saying, “You can’t pick people that have already lost two races. You can’t pick people that have already lost two races and do not stand for our values, so I’m going with Congressman Ted Budd.”
Budd, according to Trump, had not been pushing the former president for his endorsement, “unlike some of the others that are running that won’t win,” Trump said.
While Trump’s endorsement serves as a powerful boost for Budd’s name recognition in a state the former president won twice, Budd also kicked off his campaign with another endorsement, from Club for Growth, which boasts of its record of winning candidates. The group supported Budd’s initial 2016 campaign for Congress, as well as his reelection campaigns in 2018 and 2020.
Democrats vying for the Senate seat include state Sen. Jeff Jackson, former state Sen. Erica Smith, and former state Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. Regardless of who wins each party’s primary, however, the race is likely to be a tough matchup following both Trump and Tillis winning by less than two percent each in 2020.
Budd said Saturday night, “We’ve got a lot of hard work ahead. So let’s win this together, and let’s get back to making America great again.”
Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.