Walker defies Trump, says he’ll stay in N.C. Senate race

Trump last summer endorsed Budd in the primary. But the congressman has failed to secure a significant lead over McCrory, despite the Club for Growth’s super PAC pledging at least $10 million to boost his campaign.

Walker in early December attended a meeting at Mar-a-Lago, where Trump offered his endorsement to Walker if he exited the Senate primary and instead ran for a House seat similar to his old district. The meeting, attended by Club for Growth president David McIntosh, was organized in an attempt to smooth Budd’s path to the party nomination. Walker announced afterward he would take the holidays to come to a decision about his plans.

“Our polling shows he is already out of the North Carolina Senate race, so what’s the difference?” McIntosh said Thursday, referring to Walker’s decision to remain in the race.

A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Thursday, Walker touted the diverse coalition behind his Senate campaign, including Black pastors and other people of color seated on stage behind him.

“I am the only candidate endorsed by everybody from Freedom Caucus members, Sen. Tim Scott, Mike Huckabee, minority community leaders who are registered Democrats,” Walker said.

Budd’s campaign quickly criticized Walker after the event. In a statement, Budd adviser Jonathan Felts said “it’s a bad sign when a candidate has to re-announce that he’s still an actual candidate” after more than a year of campaigning.

Walker’s announcement comes as uncertainty looms over North Carolina’s newly drawn congressional map, which is mired in a court challenge and could be redrawn, with the possibility of the House district in question becoming heavily Democratic. Candidates are also awaiting word on whether the state’s primary date will be pushed back for a second time, now to June.

The extended Senate primary fight — already pushed back from March to May — will cost Republicans even more to secure the nomination. A fourth GOP Senate candidate, Marjorie Eastman, entered the race early October and reported raising $422,978 in the last 13 weeks.

Democrats, meanwhile, cleared their primary field for former state Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley.