Former Gov. Pat McCrory enters GOP Senate race in North Carolina

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Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) is seeking a political comeback. 

McCrory jumped into the Senate race in North Carolina on Wednesday, joining another Republican, former Rep. Mark Walker, in the contest to replace retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R).

Several other Republicans are also weighing bids for Burr’s seat, including Rep. Ted Budd, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and Lara Trump, the daughter-in-law of former President Trump. Two Democrats have jumped into the race: state Sen. Jeff Jackson and former state Sen. Erica Smith, who unsuccessfully sought the party’s Senate nomination in 2020.

McCrory served for 14 years as the mayor of Charlotte before being elected governor in 2012. He lost reelection four years later to Gov. Roy Cooper (D) by only about 10,000 votes after a bitter campaign in which McCrory found himself fending off criticism of a so-called bathroom bill that prevented local officials from expanding nondiscrimination ordinances for LGBTQ communities.

Since then, he has hosted a popular weekday morning radio show as he weighed a potential return to electoral politics. He passed on a rematch with Cooper in 2020 but said that he would consider a bid for Burr’s seat in 2022. Burr announced back in 2016 that he would retire after his term expires in January 2023.

In conversations with The Hill in recent months, McCrory hinted that a Senate campaign was in his future. Asked last month about the spate of Senate GOP retirements ahead of 2022, McCrory said that they presented “a great opportunity to bring in new blood with experience outside of D.C.” 

“A former mayor or a former governor or otherwise,” he said, naming two public offices that he has previously held. “People without Washington experience and new ideas based on leadership experience outside of D.C.” 

McCrory stressed in a video announcing his candidacy on Wednesday morning that he is not a D.C. insider, boasting that he had built his career “outside of Washington” and vowed to return “common sense” to the Senate.

He also cast a Republican victory in North Carolina’s hotly contested Senate race as critical to the GOP’s efforts to recapture a majority in the upper chamber next year, urging conservatives in the state to “take back the Senate” from Vice President Harris, who currently has the power to cast tie-breaking votes. 

“It’s time that we join together and take back the Senate from Kamala Harris, so I’m in,” McCrory says in the video. “Let’s put America first and bring conservative North Carolina common sense to Washington.”

McCrory is likely to face some challenges in his bid for the GOP Senate nomination in North Carolina. He has a complicated history with Trump, who remains the most influential Republican in the country and is seen as a kingmaker in GOP primaries. 

It’s also unclear what effect Lara Trump could have on the race should she decide to mount a Senate campaign of her own. A poll from the GOP firm Cygnal obtained by The Hill on Tuesday showed McCrory running 14 points behind Lara Trump in a hypothetical eight-way primary. 

Robinson, who has not yet announced a Senate campaign, polled roughly 6 points ahead of McCrory in that survey.

Still, many North Carolina Republicans are skeptical that Lara Trump will run for Senate. A recent polling memo addressed to McCrory showed him leading in a three-way race that also included Walker and Budd. That survey did not field questions about Lara Trump. 

Regardless, Democrats pounced on McCrory following his campaign announcement on Wednesday, saying that he had “embarrassed North Carolina on the national stage” during his tenure as governor and would now face a deluge of opposition to his Senate bid. 

“With a failed record like that, it’s no wonder Pat McCrory is already facing a buzzsaw of opposition as he joins this divisive and messy Republican primary,” Stewart Boss, a spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), said. 

–Updated at 10:27 a.m.

Tags 2022 midterm elections Donald Trump GOP primary Lara Trump Mark Walker North Carolina politics North Carolina Senate Race Pat McCrory Richard Burr Ted Budd

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