Senate candidates slam Ted Budd’s Club for Growth support

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Left to right: Former Governor Pat McCrory, former US Representative Mark Walker, veteran Marjorie Eastman and Representative Ted Budd. All four are among the Republican candidates running for the US Senate.

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With less than two weeks into the campaign and Rep. Ted Budd in the lead, Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate have converged to condemn the spending of a political action committee working to secure Budd’s nomination.

Pat McCrory, former mayor of Charlotte and governor of North Carolina, said the Club for Growth group “has a lot of clout to mislead voters in North Carolina.” The group spent well over $8 million on the primary and plans to spend at least $14 million by Election Day, a Club for Growth spokesperson told the Charlotte Observer last month.

“We have a group called Club for Growth, a group outside of Washington, that is trying to buy the GOP Senate nomination for about $15 million,” McCrory told reporters Tuesday.

This sum of money has also drawn the ire of other candidates.

Speaking to The Charlotte Observer on Wednesday, Marjorie Eastman, a combat veteran and Republican Senate candidate, said the GOP electorate “needs to know this story right away before they go into the booth and vote on May 17. “.

“It’s disturbing,” Eastman said. “A lot of North Carolina is worried about a stolen election, and we really need to be worried about a bought election. We need campaign finance reform yesterday.

Budd holds the lead, polls show

Club for Growth is an influential conservative political action committee that has spent millions supporting Budd. His work is separate from Budd’s campaign, which raises and spends money separately. The group endorsed Budd and used his coffers to buy ads and build recognition for the congressman’s name among primary voters.

McCrory will do anything to distract from his liberal record and “the huge lead he’s got, but he’s not fooling Republicans in North Carolina,” said Club for Growth PAC President David McIntosh , in a press release.

Budd told the Observer last month that he thinks the PAC backs him for his positions on low taxes, economic growth and small government. The organization promotes itself as an advocate of growth, limited government, and free enterprise.

He supported all of Budd’s campaignsWhich he launched his political career in 2016, although Budd said support was something he had earned in every election.

Jonathan Felts, Budd’s senior adviser, pointed out that outside money also helps Budd’s competitors.

Former Rep. Mark Walker’s spokesman, Jack Minor, has received at least $12,000 from a political action committee, Awake Carolina, in the past year for “political strategy advice.” financial records show.

Another group called Restoring Common Sense supported Eastman. He raised more than $2.45 million between July and the end of March. Eastman’s campaign declined to comment on the group’s support.

The Carolina Senate Fund, which aims to secure McCrory’s nomination, said it raised more than $1 million between April 2021 and the end of March. Its biggest donor is Doug Lebda, CEO of LendingTree, where McCrory previously served on the board of Business North Carolina. Previously reported.

“There are no super-PAC virgins in this Senate campaign,” Felts said in a statement. “Mark Walker, Marjorie Eastman, Pat McCrory all have super-PAC support, so their clutch of pearls focused solely on the super-PAC backing the candidate who beats them by double digits is a textbook case of hypocrisy.”

He said every campaign for the U.S. Senate with a credible chance of winning, Democrat or Republican and across the country, will have the support of a super PAC, a type of political action committee that can raise money from companies, unions, associations and people without limits.

Jordan Shaw, an adviser to McCrory, pushed back against Felts’ comparison, saying there was “no other group involved in this race like the Club for Growth.”

“And there is no other candidate in this race who is wholly owned and operated by and dependent on a group like Ted Budd is on the Club,” Shaw said. “They bought him his first race and they’re trying to start over because he does everything they tell him to do.”

With money from the Club for Growth and the endorsement of President Donald Trump, Budd surged ahead of his opponents in the polls.

A poll from Meredith College released on Tuesday found that 32.7% of respondents interested in voting in the Republican primary favor Budd, 25.7% said they would vote for McCrory and 33.7% said they were undecided. Walker got 6.5% and Eastman 2.7%.

Eastman said the number of undecided voters indicates the impact of Club for Growth spending is limited.

“They realize that North Carolina doesn’t bite the bait,” she said. “This is a call to action for our state – we can show the rest of the country that when you run for the primary, you’re not just changing the trajectory of a party, you’re changing the trajectory of a country. .”

Walker was also candid about Club for Growth’s support of Budd, saying the group played a role in winning former President Donald Trump’s endorsement.

“I met with President Trump, and he pledged his full support in whatever election I got,” Walker said during a debate. hosted by FOX8 WGHP. “But (his choice of Budd) was an example of backroom endorsements and deals in Washington. North Carolina doesn’t want to be told what to do.

“Not the Republican Party” McCrory is known

Speaking to reporters, McCrory said he planned to target undecided voters – many of whom he said are not even aware of the upcoming primary and general election. He also sees himself having an advantage with a large percentage of independent voters in the state.

Walker’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Eastman told the Observer that her outsider status — she has never held public office before unlike Walker, Budd and McCrory — will help her resonate with voters weary of career politicians. Despite low awareness before the race, she has raised over $635,000 so far.

Eastman added that she clocked more than 1,000 miles a week during the campaign trail.

McCrory denounced what he called ‘false and misleading’ TV ads about his track record and lamented how the Republican Party has been ‘hijacked’ by groups like the Freedom Caucusa group of conservative House Republicans founded in 2015.

“It’s not the Republican Party I’ve been a part of since I was young,” McCrory said.

McCrory said the U.S. Senate race does not garner national or state attention the way other races do, and he worries about an uninformed electorate.

North Carolina’s 2018 primary turnout was just 14.35%. In 2014, it was 15.79%, according to the State Board of Elections.

“This is one of the most significant senatorial campaigns in the United States of America,” McCrory said. “It could determine who has control of the US Senate coming in 2022.”

This story was originally published May 5, 2022 6:00 a.m.

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Will Wright covers politics in Charlotte and North Carolina. He previously covered Eastern Kentucky for the Lexington Herald-Leader and worked as a reporter for the New York Times.

Gordon Rago covers the growth and development of The Charlotte Observer. He was previously a reporter at the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., and began his journalism career in 2013 at the Shoshone News-Press in Idaho.

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