HIGH POINT, NC (WGHP) – They had their final public talk. Now the public has its say.
Former Governor Pat McCrory and former US Representative Mark Walker returned to the area they have both called home and held one final public debate in their race for the Republican nomination for the US Senate. Early in-person voting begins Thursday and leads to the May 17 primary.
Both men want the job of Richard Burr left behind by Winston-Salem — along with a dozen other Republicans, 11 Democrats and one Libertarian — who is retiring after three terms in the Senate. The GOP sees retention of this seat as essential if it is to have any chance of retaking control of the Senate from the Democrats’ 1-vote lead.
This was the fourth debate between McCrory, a little more moderate, and Walker, a three-year congressman who led a conservative faction. Newcomer Marjorie Eastman, an author and military veteran from Cary, has shared the stage with them a few times.
But for the fourth time in a row Front-runner Rep. Ted Budd declined an invitation to participate. His spokesman, Jonathan Felts, said in an email: “Ted Budd is focused on completing his 100-county tour of NC before the primary so he can speak directly to constituents in all 100 counties and solicit their votes.”
But even though Budd (R-Advance) wasn’t in the room, he was far from out of the conversation when both McCrory and Walker hammered him about his absence, saying he didn’t have guts and “entitled himself, but didn’t qualified” felt “become a senator.
McCrory and Walker were selected to participate based on the WGHP/The Hill/Emerson College survey Budd with 38 percent support from likely Republican voters, followed by former Gov. McCrory (22 percent) and former Rep. Walker (9 percent). Eastman scored just 1.5 percent in the poll and failed to meet the qualifying threshold.
McCrory, who grew up in Jamestown, was Charlotte’s youngest-ever elected mayor and was elected governor in 2012. But he had some tough spots during his first term, narrowly losing re-election to Roy Cooper in 2016. Cooper was re-elected in 2020. Since then he has had a radio show and flirted with dates.
Walker, a Greensboro resident, was a Baptist minister for 16 years before deciding to go into politics in 2014, upsetting Phil Berger Jr. in a runoff for the Republican nomination to replace the legendary Howard Coble in the 6th congressional district . He won re-election in 2016 and 2018, but after a court-ordered redraw made his district less favorable to Republicans, he decided to focus on replacing Burr.
Both men were asked tough questions by the event’s moderators, WGHP’s Bob Buckley and WNCN’s Rod Carter, on tough issues including immigration, COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and the federal government’s role in schools. They gave answers touting their respective records and attacked Budd for not having one. They sometimes agreed, and their differences were small.
For example, both men said mask mandates — or all COVID-19-related mandates — must end. McCrory called the government’s response to the pandemic an overstatement. Walker said the pandemic showed “how much freedom Americans were willing to give up,” which he implied was a government experiment. They said the CDC has lost the trust of the American people and needs a more consistent message to win it back. Walker even called for the dismissal of Dr. Anthony Fauci.
But when asked what they would do now to deal with the highest rate of inflation in decades, they didn’t really answer. They discussed what they saw as causes — government subsidies motivating people to stay at home and not work, heavy government spending driving up the deficit, and saying that under no circumstances should student loans be handed out — and drove their points home, but they didn’t provide any solutions.
Both spoke about spending plans and financial responsibility, as well as COVID-19 funds being used “as a payback” by local governments, McCrory said. However, they did not provide an answer on how to help families.
McCrory: “One reason Ted Budd can’t fight back: He pressured paying people not to go back to work.”
Walker on paying people who don’t work: “It’s a farce.”
But both were passionately supportive of Ukraine and its fight against the invasion orchestrated by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. They challenged Budd (and Rep. Madison Cawthorn and President Joe Biden) for their comments that did not staunchly denounce Putin. They praised President Zelenskyy and his leadership. They agreed that this is a war to be won and that the US should send all possible deadly weapons.
But they also stopped supporting US troops on the ground. They said we shouldn’t listen to the politicians, but to the military leaders. They said we should do everything we can to help the refugees who are fleeing the war.
They didn’t like the inconsistent messages from the Biden administration, and they were uniformly unflinching, saying we must support our NATO allies — something former President Donald Trump had not advocated — and saying it could be a trigger for the deployment of troops into battle. They also said we must stop nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction.
About Trump and Budd
Speaking of Trump, Buckley and Carter both men drilled about his support of Budd, which is believed to have propelled Budd into his leadership, and what reach Trump should have in the future of the Republican Party. The WGHP/The Hill/Emerson College Polling poll showed that about 6 in 10 likely voters thought Trump’s support was important.
“I met with President Trump, and he promised his full support in any election I would have,” Walker said. “But this [his choosing Budd] was an example of endorsements and backroom deals in Washington. North Carolina doesn’t want to be told what to do.”
McCrory said: “Let these voters know that Ted Budd is a poster child for everything that’s wrong in Washington, DC. Bought and paid for by a third party group who paid $14M for fraudulent ads about Mark and I.”
As an example, they talked about how Budd had voted against the farm bill that would have supported North Carolina’s farming industry. “It’s not for the peasants. He’s not for you,” McCrory said. “If he were for you, he would be here now. He’s acting like he’s entitled to it.”
Walker said: “Club for growth [the super PAC that supports Budd] called [for him to] Vote against the Farm Bill. I would not vote against. Mr. Budd had to vote against because the President of the Club for Growth called him.”
However, when it comes to the future of the party, McCrory said he thinks “we have some future leaders who are governors.”
Walker said he will support “anyone who wins this Senate race. … I’ve worked with Trump. If I could back down to tweets and language and behavior, I have. But we must stop this radical, left-wing, woke ideology that teaches children to hate America.
“Trump is influential. He can do a lot of good. … There is much to applaud President Trump.”
McCrory said, “I think it’s time Republicans, Democrats and independents acknowledge the truth. Biden’s policies are ruining America. Trump’s policies were good. He went too far with the spending. … But we must call on Democrats to use violence in the cities and support our police force calling on Republicans who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.”
On other topics
Both men support the enforcement of immigration laws and were adamant that DACA immigrants should be treated harshly and not given a free pass to citizenship until other issues were addressed. They said that was the President’s problem to be solved.
Speaking of Budd’s commercial, which stood in front of the southern border wall, McCrory said, “Budd looked totally tough… almost like a Saturday Night Live sketch. He voted against building the wall.”
McCrory: “Until we secure the wall and our border, no compromises on dealing with children”
Walker: “We have to be sovereign.”
- Walker cited his work on Name Image Likeness Deals that helped collegiate athletes and his work with historically black colleges and universities like NC A&T as two examples of how he might work with democratic ideas. McCrory promoted the bond issue he pushed through to expand key math and science facilities at universities across the state.
- Both men supported the idea of medical marijuana, although Walker was more hesitant. They were unanimously against recreational marijuana. Walker said the term bothered him.
- McCrory said he thinks legalized sports gambling is essentially here. Walker said he was against anything that could cause addiction.
- When asked about NC Eastern barbecue vs. Lexington style, both men said they liked both, but had their personal flaws (McCrory preferred ketchup, and Walker admitted an influence from his former hometown of Texas).
And both men, in their final remarks for perhaps their last time on such a grand stage for their senatorial campaigns, noted what really matters about this race:
McCrory said it was obviously “unfair that Ted Budd should be mentioned at all” that it was wrong to “avoid facing the voters and accepting questions”.
Walker returned to his service, saying that no matter what happens, “God would have all the glory.”
https://www.cbs17.com/news/political-news/mccrory-walker-tackle-key-voting-topics-in-final-debate-ahead-of-ncs-us-senate-republican-primary/ McCrory and Walker cover key voting issues in the closing debate before the Republican primary in the US Senate in NC