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EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina is running for the Senate in a race that may end up becoming the most hotly contested and expensive Senate battle in the 2022 midterm elections.
In a fast-paced video announcement Tuesday that was shared first with Fox News, the pastor and outgoing three-term conservative congressman says, “I’m running for the United States Senate because serving others is my life and I have the experience to fight and win in Washington.”
“I think our record speaks for itself and that’s what we’re going to run on,” Walker, a strong supporter of President Trump, emphasized in an interview with Fox News. “I think we offer a rare commodity, which is a conservative, but also someone who builds bridges. In a toxic, very partisan arena, I believe that’s important to be able to find a way to do that.”
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Walker is the first candidate to launch a campaign in the race to succeed retiring three-term Republican Sen. Richard Burr. But it’s doubtful he’ll be the only Republican to declare his or her candidacy.
The president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, is mulling a bid for the Senate in the state where she was born and raised. Sources close to the wife of Eric Trump and senior adviser and surrogate on the president’s campaign tell Fox News she’s “interested and exploring” a run. Asked if a bid by the president’s daughter-in-law changes his equation, Walker answered “not at all.”
And he noted that when he talked with the president last year, “he did tell us that he planned to support us. We will see. We’ve not updated that endorsement in a while.”
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“As far as anybody else, I’ve heard former Gov. [Pat] McCrory as well is looking at it,” Walker noted.
He said he isn’t “deterred” by the potential competition. “Not to try to sound arrogant or braggadocious. We’re just doing something that we believe is in our heart.”
Nearly $300 million was spent in this year's Senate battle in North Carolina between Republican Sen. Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, making it the most expensive to date in U.S. political history. Tillis narrowly edged out Cunningham to secure his reelection.
“We’ve already been told it will probably be the most expensive Senate race in U.S. history, topping $300 million,” Walker said. “I’ve never been one to build relationships based on some kind of financial transaction. You want to do I because you want to help and serve people.”
But he acknowledges the fundraising will be a crucial element for success and added that “we’re going to do our best.” And he spotlighted that “North Carolina” could literally be the balance of power of whether you have [Democratic Senate leader] Chuck Schumer in charge or the current majority leader McConnell. … That’s something that we’ve got to factor in to fundraising … people are going to be paying attention nationwide to what’s happening in North Carolina.”
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Walker also targets Schumer in his video, saying, “Chuck Schumer doesn’t get to pick the next senator, the people do.”
In the video, Walker argues that “Washington has lost its mind. Job-killing regulations. Green New Deal. Defund the police and our military. Seriously? I’m proud of my record taking on the radicals as well as the establishment.”
And he shows off the support he’s already lined up, noting that “I’m grateful to already have the full endorsements of the sheriffs throughout central North Carolina. I will continue to work on behalf of our veterans, our families, and our men and women on the frontlines.”
Walked adds that “today, pastors, mayors, educators, and friends across North Carolina are part of this journey.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a two-time GOP presidential candidate and a Fox News contributor, touts in the video that “Mark’s record as a conservative champion is unquestioned. … It's time for the people of North Carolina to get together and make sure they elect a true, solid, conservative who has the guts to fight. That’s Mark Walker.”
Clarence Henderson, one of the young Black students who participated in the historic 1960 sit-in at a Greensboro, N.C., Woolworth lunch counter, says in the video that he’s “all the way” in for Walker. Standing with the congressman outside the historic site, Henderson stressed that “North Carolina needs you, Mark.”
Walker was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2014 to represent the state’s 6th Congressional District. Three years later he was elected to head the conservative Republican Study Committee.
He considered but eventually passed on a primary challenge this cycle against Tillis. He decided against seeking another term in the House in 2020 after court-prompted redistricting dramatically shifted his seat from safely Republican to a solidly blue district.
Walker said the redistricting of his House seat “was a factor” in running for the Senate in 2022 rather than bid for reelection this year. But he added “I don’t know if it was the bulk of the decision.”
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Noting that Burr announced four years ago that he wouldn’t seek reelection in 2022, Walker said that “since we knew that Richard Burr was retiring,” he decided “to save our resources and begin to plan long term for the U.S. Senate.”
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