When Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) completed his studies at Dallas Theological Seminary in 1998, he believed he was called by God to return to his family’s business in North Carolina even though he and wife Amy Kate had quite a different future in mind.
“Within a month, my 33-year-old sister-in-law, married to my brother, four kids, and my brother is running the business at that point. She was diagnosed with terminal, aggressive small-cell lung cancer, died seven months later,” Budd told The Epoch Times during a recent interview.
“So, it was there for me and the others on the team to step up and learn the business,” said Budd of the successful facilities services company founded by his highly entrepreneurial father.
It was one of numerous unexpected turns in the career of the 49-year-old, three-term congressman who is “seriously considering” a 2022 bid for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by the retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
The three-term Republican was born in Winston-Salem and grew up on a family farm near Advance. He was first elected to Congress in 2016 from the Tarheel State’s then-newly created 13th congressional district stretching from Northern Charlotte to Greensboro.
Seeking public office had never been front and center for Budd, who said he “came to faith early in life.” He and Amy Kate met in Moscow on a 1991 mission trip to Russia with CRU, the college Christian group formerly known as Campus Crusade, led by Josh McDowell. They were married in 1994.
When he graduated from Appalachian State University, he opted to head to Dallas instead of law school. At that point in Budd’s thinking, endeavors like running for office only distantly figured in his career plans.
“The question was do I want to go to law school or seminary. And I knew that one day after Amy Kate and I got married, we would have kids and maybe one day after that I would try to serve in public office. It was a later ambition,” Budd said. “It was there, but it was more of a drawing, a calling if you will. Still is.”
With a seminary master’s degree in educational leadership and family life, Budd had seen himself in some kind of para-ministry career, perhaps overseas.
But back in North Carolina, Budd became something of a turn-around guy when his brother asked him to take over the family firm’s then-struggling Charlotte operation.
From there, he and his dad started a new agriculture investment company, and in 2010 Budd bought a failing gun range, turned it around and grew it into ProShots, a hugely successful law enforcement services supplier, commercial shooting range, and retail firearms operation.
As big as those challenges were for Budd, however, it pales beside the hurdles in going after the Senate seat next year in what will be one of the nation’s most closely watched contests. The North Carolina winner could well decide whether Democrats or Republicans control the upper chamber of Congress come January 2023.
With his strong faith and family structure, demonstrated grit and success in business, and three terms in the House as a rising star in the emerging populist conservative Republican universe, Budd could be a formidable Senate candidate.
But there’s the Trump factor. Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law, is a Wilmington native and is clearly weighing a possible run for the Senate.
Trump, a Fox News contributor, already has a national political profile, multiple potential campaign donors ready to write big checks, and access to the best campaign talents in the Republican Party.
A recent Meredith College poll illustrates Trump’s opening strength, with more than 27 percent of self-identified Republican Senate primary voters favoring her, compared to 16.6 percent for former Gov. Pat McCrory, and six percent for Budd.
Other Republican power-players who are also either announced candidates or known to be eyeing the March 2022 GOP primary race, include former Rep. Mark Walker, who has the endorsement of former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and senators James Lankford of Oklahoma and Tim Scott of South Carolina, Tim Moore, Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, former Lieutenant-Governor Dan Forest, and former Rep. George Holding.
The Democratic field is likely to be much bigger and more divisive. State senator Jeff Jackson has already raised $1.3 million for his announced candidacy, and other announced candidates include Beaufort Mayor Rhett Newton, and former state senator Erica Smith. Cheri Beasley, former Chief Justice of the North Carolina State Supreme Court, is expected to announce her candidacy soon.
Others considering entering the Democratic Senate primary include former Washington Redskins quarterback and three-term congressman Heath Shuler, former Charlotte Mayor and U.S. Secretary of Transportation under President Barack Obama Anthony Foxx, U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross, and North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.
More than 48 percent of those surveyed by Meredith said they plan to vote in the Democratic primary, compared to 33 percent for the GOP race.
It should be noted, however, that the widely cited statewide poll strongly oversampled Democrats, 42.5 percent to 30.3 percent. Only 36 percent of the state’s voters are registered Democrats, 33 percent are unaffiliated or independent and 30 percent are Republican.
Crowded primaries are familiar turf for Budd, who emerged the winner in a 17-candidate field in his first-ever run for public office, the bid for Congress in 2016. Budd was boosted to that primary victory by the Club for Growth, an influential conservative campaign support group.
Budd, who is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, is an enthusiastic supporter of tax cuts and deregulation, a strong national defense posture, school choice, and completion of the construction of the Trump wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.
He opposed the recent congressional decision to bring back earmarks in spending bills, and he has opposed President Joe Biden’s unprecedented explosion of federal spending and debt, as well as the Chief Executive’s tax hikes.
He also opposes vaccine passports and Democrat proposals to restrict Second Amendment rights, defund law enforcement and federalize voter registration and election procedures now controlled by state governments.
Budd’s center-right positioning aligns strongly with most North Carolina Republicans, and his early and vocal opposition to Biden’s policies, especially on the border, could be a decisive factor.
When the Democratic National Committee (DNC) began running 60-second television spots touting Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Recovery Act in the Raleigh market in mid-March, state party chairwoman Bobbie Richardson declared that “this is just the start of a sustained effort to spread our message to North Carolinians far and wide that this is what happens when Democrats are elected to govern.”
Asked by The Epoch Times about Richardson’s comment, Budd responded, saying “in less than 100 days, Democrat governance has produced a border crisis and 100,000 lost jobs through executive action. When Republicans governed, America saw a secure border and the best economy since men walked on the Moon.”
That exchange may have captured the issue that will dominate the 2022 Senate race in North Carolina and across the nation.
Congressional correspondent Mark Tapscott may be reached at email@example.com