On Tuesday U.S. Rep Mark Walker (R) became the first Republican to declare a run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Richard Burr (R).
Walker, a former Baptist pastor from Greensboro, has been talking about a run for senate since last year, when his congressional district was redrawn and ultimately went to Democrat Kathy Manning. Last year he met with President Donald Trump, who he said would back him in a run in 2022.
That was before Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, began talking about a run for the seat. If she decides to run, it’s unclear where the outgoing president’s endorsement would go.
In declining to run again, Burr has created a rare open seat for which many North Carolina Republicans may scrum.
Walker won his congressional seat in a similar way, when the retirement of the late Howard Coble led Republicans from the prominent to the unknown into a tough GOP primary in 2014. Walker ended up in a run-off with Phil Berger Jr., the son of N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. Berger Jr. had much wider name recognition, experience as District Attorney in Rockingham County and dramatically outspent Walker, who had never before run for elected office. But Walker, a tireless campaigner, beat Berger Jr. handily even in his home county.
In a video announcing his candidacy, Walker calls himself “a conservative warrior and a bridge builder for all of our communities.”
The video emphasizes this with appearances from civil rights figure Clarence Henderson in front of the site of the Woolworth’s sit-in in downtown Greensboro and a remote endorsement from former Alabama Gov. Mike Huckabee, who calls Walker “a conservative champion.”
In the video Walker leans heavily on his appeal to conservatives, railing against the Green New Deal and calls to “defund the police” and decrease military spending.
During his time in Washington Walker has been a staunch Trump supporter, leaving some question as to what his crossover appeal may be in the wake of Trump’s failed reelection bid.
State senator Erica Smith, who lost the Democratic Senate primary to Cal Cunningham this year, has said she will run for the Senate seat in 2022.