The Pulse

Field notes from the U.S. Senate election — Vol. 7

By: - March 28, 2022 5:30 am

Final sprint in the GOP primary money race

This is the last week before the books close on first quarter fundraising and candidates are revving up last-minute appeals.

In a race that has scant public polling, the fundraising reports, due out by April 15, are among the few metrics of support in the race.

They’ll be well pondered no doubt, but with so much money flowing into the race from PACs and various dark money groups, the true value of the reports as tea leaves is dubious.

In the last quarter, Congressman Ted Budd pulled ahead of former Gov. Pat McCrory in the money chase. If he sustains that pace, it could help him make the sale to the substantial bloc of still undecided GOP and unaffiliated voters. Or not.

The most important number for now is 30 percent plus one, whatever that turns out to be once the vote is certified. As the race stands today, if either Ted Budd or Pat McCrory or both clear that threshold, the top vote-getter wins the primary outright.

Any result shy of that threshold, which would likely require both Mark Walker and Marjorie Eastman picking up double digit support, means a runoff in July.

The fundraising totals tend to trickle out ahead of the formal reports, especially if they reinforce a campaign’s narrative, so we should know soon.

Trump travels to NC

Former President Donald Trump is expected to make it a day to remember for Ted Budd, when he returns to North Carolina in early April to renew his vow of support.

Trump, whose clout is being measured in part by how well his slate of endorsements are faring in the primary is headlining a April 9 event at The Farm on 95, Johnston County’s “premiere wedding venue.”

Last week, the former president dropped his endorsement of congressman Mo Brooks, who was running third in Alabama’s Senate primary.

As Trump makes the rounds of primary states, his endorsement of Budd and whether the two-term congressman can win is getting additional scrutiny in national media. Here are a few examples:

The HillTrump looks to bolster Ted Budd with North Carolina rally
Politico — Why Trump Is Losing His Grip on the GOP
NYTHow the 2022 Primaries Are Testing Trump’s Role as the G.O.P. ‘Kingpin’

This screenshot from a Ted Budd for Senate ad shows him (at right) packing a gun on the U.S.-Mexico border

Endless ads

Advertising buys are rolling in for the final six weeks of campaigning, including an initial round of $1 million from another national PAC opposed to McCrory.

The Alexandria, Va.-based Conservative Outsider PAC is backed by Richard Uilein, who runs the privately held Uline shipping products company.

The latest statement of organization for the PAC lists attorney Lane Ruhland of Wisconsin as treasurer.

Ruhland came under fire during the 2020 presidential race for representing the Trump campaign while also helping Kayne West file paperwork and obtain petitions for a presidential run.

Budd also has his first ad up. In it, he’s making his pitch while packing a handgun and walking along the U.S. Mexico border with a guy in a cowboy hat. A campaign spokesman told the Associated Press the campaign plans to spend $2.5 million on advertising in the primary.


WNCN — Fact check: Is Mark Walker’s jab at Ted Budd’s ‘liberal agenda crusher’ out of bounds?
WRAL — NC GOP’s US Senate primary turns personal as Budd, Walker tangle for Trump base
Politifact — McCrory on Budd excusing Putin ‘mostly false’
Ballotopedia — Heart of the Primaries 2022, Republicans
WCNC Flashpoint — ‘Too close to call’ | GOP official sizes up NC’s Senate race
AP — Budd runs 1st ad in GOP Senate primary; another PAC pans McCrory
Capital Tonight — One-on-one with Mark Walker
Washington TimesWalker balances pro-, anti-Trump factions in bid for ‘strong’ conservative mantle in NC Senate race
WNCN — 1-on-1 with US Senate hopeful Marjorie Eastman
WRAL — Marjorie K. Eastman makes pitch for political outsider candidate
N&ODonald Trump announces rally in the Triangle area in early April. What we know.

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Kirk Ross

Kirk Ross, 2022 Election Correspondent, is a longtime North Carolina journalist covering the 2022 U.S. Senate race for Policy Watch and States Newsroom. For the past decade, Kirk has reported on state politics and public policy as a member of the Capital Press Corps for Carolina Public Press and the Washington Post and on environmental, climate change and energy policy for Coastal Review. Kirk was a Chapel Hill News and News & Observer local government and education reporter, managing editor of INDY Week and co-founder and editor of the fondly-remembered Carrboro Citizen weekly. [email protected] 919-737-5096