Former GOP congressman faces Trump pressure in Senate key race

Now, Walker, who served three periods in the House and is a distant third-place finisher in a three-way GOP primary, is once again a candidate in search of a race he can win. Walker follows Trump-approved Rep. Ted Budd and former Gov. Pat McCrory in both support and fundraising for the Senate.

A politician whose career plans have been repeatedly removed since 2019, Walker’s situation is complicated by the fact that he’s just not interested in following the conventional rulebook of the political game, instead willing to alienate key players and royalty as he goes its own. way.

When it works, Walker’s results have been spectacular. When it does not work, then the consequences.

“I want to put my pride on the table, but I do not want to put my principles,” Walker said in an interview earlier this month, a few days after Trump made the offer.

“On paper,” Walker said as he ran for the house again, “it makes a lot of sense.”

But Walker is not one whose political decisions come down to logic and input from consultants. The former Baptist pastor must feel it in his heart – just like when he walked down from the nosebleed section of the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa, down on the floor of the arena and sensed that God was telling him to run for Congress.

Then he won against the odds.

“So I want to do what I think is the best thing to do,” Walker said of his current riddle. “Does it cost me millions of dollars in super PAC money? Probably that. But I know that if I can beat the system, it will allow me to get up there like we did last time and go and earn unrestrained.”

Trump’s allies had forwarded Parliament’s approval proposal to Walker a few weeks before their December 4 meeting at Trump’s private Florida club, though Walker – without any realistic path to victory in the Senate – initially declined because the deal involved supporting Budd, he told donors. The provision was later removed.

Two years ago, he pulled the short straw in a court-ordered map drawing that made Walker’s congressional district strongly democratic to reverse the Republicans’ gerrymandering, leaving him with no good options for 2020. However, Walker could have chosen Budd for a neighboring house seat. The Club for Growth promised to support Budd financially – as they do with at least $ 10 million in the current Senate race.

He could have primarily Senator Thom Tillis – a proposal that Walker announced twice in 2019 before announcing that he would not seek office at all the following year, instead of seeking an open Senate seat in 2022.

Despite Walker at the time suggesting he wanted Trump’s approval in 2022 and participating in the Senate race before his rivals, Walker was taken aback when Trump announced at a June meeting that he supported Budd.

Staying in the race, Walker admits, requires him to successfully go his own way. It’s an approach that got him to Congress, but an approach that would be nearly impossible to copy at the state-wide level without significant funding.

“You have the Trump lane in one aspect, and you have the former governor who I think has the Karl Rove camp in his lane,” Walker said, referring to McCrory. “And we have to build our own path to be able to build fundraising, to be able to build the name ID.”

While McCrory’s staff maintain that Walker’s leaving the race would have little effect on the result, a Club for Growth poll released last week showed Budd with a narrow lead – a statistical draw of 47 percent to McCrory’s 43 percent – in a two-way matchup . The voting commission from the club in the fall showed that Budd still had not had a lead in the three-way primary, earning 33 percent support for McCrory’s 36 percent, while Walker had 13 percent of the vote.

“I do not think they are worried about my political future,” Walker said of parties urging him to run for the House of Representatives. “I think they’re worried that Ted’s numbers are not where they should be. He has everything in the world and he’s still at 30 percent.”

Bud’s campaign declined to comment on the record for this story.

It’s no secret in North Carolina’s political circles that the relationship between Walker and Budd is strained. Already at odds, after Walker ran against Budd for the House’s final cycle, Walker is annoyed that his former housemate entered the Senate in 2022 and occupied the Trump arena, where Walker had tried to claim himself, according to several people who knows the situation.

It’s part of a pattern of skirmishes between Walker and the GOP establishment. He started his political career in 2013 as a church pastor with a plan to become the popular GOP representative Howard Coble, who was 30 at the time, and later teased Tillis a challenge.

And while he has wooed Trump’s support, Walker’s brand of Christian conservatism has completely evaded Trumpism. In 2016, Walker condemned Trump’s remarks about sexual assault recorded on tape by Access Hollywood, calling them “creepy” and adding that “America deserves better.”

In August 2020 and on his way out of Congress, Walker made headlines by becoming the first high-profile Republican to run for Jerry Falwell Jr. to resign as president of Liberty University – where Walker sat on an advisory committee to the music faculty – after a picture emerged of Falwell, a close Trump ally, with his pants loose and his arm around his wife’s assistant.

“I’m an everyday person. My world is made up of simple people I love and care about,” Walker said as his voice broke with emotion. “I’m just a grassroots man who’s had an extraordinary opportunity, but I have not. , as I should do it inside the system – and sometimes it bites you.

“I’m going away before I have to do that.”

Going away would mean the 52-year-old middle class would have to rebuild a career and find a new job. And in the belief that his God-given calling is to influence politics in Washington, Walker has no plans to return to full-time service soon.

Walker has successfully defied the establishment before. In a primary settlement in 2014, he beat Coble’s approved successor, Phil Berger Jr. – son of the state senate president and now a state supreme court judge.

In January before the primary election in May of that year, Walker’s congressional campaign had only $ 9,000 cash on hand, far less than Bergers.

Throughout his political career, from the moment he signaled his willingness to challenge Coble, Walker has demonstrated a mentality that “the rules do not apply to him and no one will take it personally,” a North Carolina said Republicans familiar with the former congressman’s career.

“It’s become problematic for him, especially over the last two to three years.”

Walker quickly emerged as a leader in Congress and became chairman of the Republican Committee of Inquiry after his first term and then vice president of the House Republican Conference in 2019.

But months after his threat to Primary Tillis, the state’s GOP establishment came after him, offering Walker’s House seat to shape the state’s Supreme Court, which ordered lawmakers to draw a fairer congressional card. Tillis is a former speaker in the state House – and among the state’s congressional delegation, Walker had fewer friends in Raleigh, even before he publicly considered accepting their former leader.

“In general, the Legislative Assembly tends to look for members of its own party when drawing, especially congressional cards,” said Michael Bitzer, a North Carolina political commentator and professor of politics and history at Catawba University. “As a rule, these people have some deep connections with members of the General Assembly. Maybe Walker just did not have that affiliation with lawmakers when he was sacrificed in 2019.”

While Walker is on vacation to come up with a decision on his campaign plans, he is still waiting for Trump’s public approval of the seat in the House.

“If he stays inside, he hurts Budd, no doubt about it,” said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist and native of North Carolina who is a former communications director for the Republican National Committee. “He does not take votes from McCrory. He only takes them from Budd.”

As part of the event concluded at the Mar-a-Lago meeting, which was attended by Club for Growth President David McIntosh, rep. Madison Cawthorn (RN.C.) and congressional candidate Bo Hines, Hines would move his campaign from the 7th District to the 4th with Trump’s approval, while Trump would support Walker to run in the 7th, much of which he previously represented. Hines has not yet announced its plans either.

“I think for most realists, it’s a question of when, not whether, he decides to drop out of the Senate race,” Bitzer said of Walker. “It would be a minor miracle to carry out a disturbance of that magnitude.”

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