McCrory, Walker Attend Last NC Senate Debate; Budd Absent

The final scheduled debate for North Carolina’s Republican Senate primary featured former Gov. Pat McCrory and ex-U.S. Rep. Mark Walker largely agreeing on issues and criticizing rival Rep. Ted Budd for his absence from another television forum.

Walker and McCrory took the stage for an hourlong debate at a High Point TV station Tuesday night, responding to questions on immigration, COVID-19 and Russia’s war against Ukraine among others, news outlets reported.

Budd, who has received former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in the May 17 primary race, declined to participate in the debate that aired on several Nexstar stations that cover North Carolina. He hasn’t joined colleagues in three previous GOP debates since late February.

Budd spokesperson Jonathan Felts said in an email that the candidate is focused on finishing his tour of every county in state "so he can speak directly to voters in all 100 counties and ask for their votes.” Early in-person voting begins Thursday.

McCrory, the governor from 2013 through 2016, was particularly unhappy when footage of Budd being interviewed about health care costs was aired during the debate.

“If Ted Budd had enough time to do that interview, why in the hell didn’t he have enough time to come to this debate and three other debates?” McCrory asked.

On the war in Ukraine, both McCrory and Walker were fervent in supporting the fight against the invasion and accused Budd of failing to staunchly decry Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On immigration, the two candidates agreed refugees from war-torn countries should be given entry to the U.S. sooner than others. Walker opposed efforts that would give people who entered the country unlawfully as children a pathway to citizenship.

“I will continue to fight for those who come here legally,” Walker said. “I will not put people who came here illegally in front of the line of those who tried to obey the law.”

On climate change and renewable energy, McCrory said he cares deeply about energy independence and opposes phasing out natural gas. Walker said he supports both electric vehicles and coal, but worries about government regulations that could affect jobs.

Fourteen Republicans are seeking the nomination and the chance to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr. Marjorie Eastman, who has participated in some of the debates, did not meet a polling threshold to participate in Tuesday’s debate, according to Nexstar.

The GOP primary winner is likely to take on former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley in the general election. She is the front-runner in an 11-member Democratic primary field.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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