Rep. Mark Walker announces Senate bid in North Carolina

Greg Nash

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) announced on Tuesday that he will make a run for the Senate in 2022, becoming the first major candidate to launch a campaign for the seat of retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). 

In a video posted online, Walker, the vice chairman of the House Republican Conference and a staunch ally of President Trump, touted his record of “taking on the radicals, as well as the establishment.”

“Washington has lost its mind. Job-killing regulations, Green New Deal, defund our police and our military. Seriously?” he said, adding later in the announcement that he is “running for the United States Senate because serving others is my life and I have the experience to fight and to win in Washington.”

But in an interview on Tuesday, Walker also touted himself as a bridge builder who has worked across political lines on issues like funding for historically black universities and criminal justice reform. He also highlighted his work in the House with Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who will leave Congress next year for a senior role in the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The announcement was first reported on Tuesday by Fox News. The Hill previously reported that Walker was poised to launch a bid for Burr’s seat in early December.

Walker’s announcement on Tuesday marks the beginning of what is expected to be one of the most competitive and expensive Senate races of the 2022 midterm elections. 

He’s the only candidate to enter the race so far, but he’s expected to face a crowded Republican primary field. Other potential contenders for the GOP nomination include former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump.

Asked whether Lara Trump’s potential entrance into the race weighed on his decision to run, Walker demurred and pointed to his six years as a congressman and 16 years as a Baptist pastor in North Carolina. Having a Trump on the ballot, he said, had not influenced his approach to the race.

“I guess anybody should be a concern. I’m not trying to be too pollyannaish or coy about this,” he said. “It’s not determinative at all.”

Walker said he plans to file paperwork with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) formalizing his candidacy “pretty quickly.” Federal law requires candidates to file paperwork with the FEC when he or she spends or raises more than $5,000.

Democrats are also poised to contest Burr’s seat in 2022 after former state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D) fell short in his bid to unseat Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) last month. That race emerged as the most expensive Senate contest in U.S. history, with more than $280 million spent between the campaigns and outside groups.

Walker predicted that the 2022 Senate race in North Carolina would be even more expensive. The expectedly massive price tag – combined with the fact that Senate Democrats are already eyeing the seat enthusiastically – factored into Walker’s decision to announce his Senate bid so early, he said.

“I think it’s going to go over $300 million,” Walker told The Hill. “In so far as the confidence in myself raising the kinds of funds, it’s certainly to be determined.”

Senate Republicans largely played defense in 2020 and they are expected to face another tough cycle in two years, when the GOP will have to defend 20 seats to Democrats’ 13.

Walker, who decided not to seek reelection to the House after court-ordered redistricting shifted his seat toward Democrats, has flirted with a Senate run before. He weighed a primary challenge to Tillis in 2019, though he ultimately decided against it.

Walker told The Hill on Tuesday that he had spoken to Burr, who announced in 2016 that he would not seek a fourth term in office, about his Senate bid.

“We talked about all of this,” Walker said. “I consider him a friend. Someone who has done a great job at serving North Carolinians.”

Updated at 2:30 p.m.

Tags 2022 elections Cal Cunningham Cedric Richmond Dan Forest Donald Trump Joe Biden Lara Trump Mark Walker North Carolina politics North Carolina Senate Pat McCrory Richard Burr Thom Tillis

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