Several television networks called the primary race for Budd, who has for months led the Republican field to replace the retiring Sen. Richard Burr in polls, after a slow start in a crowded primary. Budd, a gun store owner who first won his central North Carolina House seat in 2016, will likely go on to face Democrat Cheri Beasley, former chief justice of the state’s Supreme Court, in the general election.
The race also included former Gov. Pat McCrory and former Rep. Mark Walker. While Budd originally lagged in polls, Trump at one point tried to get Walker to exit the race to consolidate his supporters behind Budd, but Walker stayed in the race.
Budd’s fortunes, however, began to turn not just due to Trump’s endorsement, but his backing from outside groups, perhaps most notably the Club for Growth, which reportedly spent about $11 million to support him.
Trump and the Club for Growth backed the same candidate in North Carolina, unlike Ohio’s recent Republican Senate primary, where Trump endorsed author JD Vance, while the Club for Growth supported former state treasurer Josh Mandel, leading to hostility between Trump and the sometimes-allied group. Trump and Club for Growth are also at odds in Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania, where Trump-backed television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, and the Club for Growth backed conservative commentator Kathy Barnette.
Both parties are likely to invest heavily in the fall campaigns. Republicans need to net a single Senate seat to win the majority in November 2022. Democrats view the race as a potential pickup opportunity.