$1.5M ad campaign touts Robinson's backing of Budd; McCrory calls claims 'total deception'

A Washington, D.C., political action committee is touting Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson's support of U.S. Rep. Ted Budd for an open U.S. Senate seat.

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Mark Robinson endorses U.S. Senate candidate Ted Budd
Bryan Anderson
, WRAL state government reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson said his decision to support U.S. Rep. Ted Budd’s run for the state’s open U.S Senate seat was “one of the toughest” he’s had to make since entering the political arena.

That choice was highlighted Wednesday with the launch of a $1.5 million ad campaign from an outside political action committee in which Robinson criticizes Budd’s top opponent, former Gov. Pat McCrory—shots that McCrory says are deceitful.

The group, Club for Growth Action, shared the ad exclusively with WRAL News. In an interview late Tuesday, ahead of the ad’s release, Robinson took aim at McCrory’s track record on education issues. The lieutenant governor identified Democratic appointees to a textbook commission who were selected while McCrory was governor. It’s a line of attack that McCrory considers “total deception.”

“Pat put liberals in charge of state textbooks and supported Democrat judges,” Robinson says in the ad. “This time, we don’t have to settle. So I’m throwing my weight—and that’s a lot of weight—behind a principled, conservative choice for U.S. Senate, my friend Ted Budd.”

The campaign is the latest effort by Club for Growth to influence the outcome of the potentially pivotal race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.
Budd has relied on millions of dollars in outside spending—including $14 million pledged from the group—to build name recognition against two seasoned, recognizable North Carolina politicians. The funding has enabled him to maintain a lead in the GOP primary race, even while skipping key debates ahead of the May 17 primary election.
In the ad, Club for Growth cites a 2014 blog post from the John Locke Foundation, a Raleigh conservative think tank, saying McCrory appointed 11 Democrats and four Republicans onto the commission after his 2012 gubernatorial victory.

McCrory has refuted similar claims made in other ads tied to Club for Growth.

State law dictates the members be appointed by the governor upon recommendation of the state superintendent of public instruction. Democrat June St. Clair Atkinson held the elected office for the entirety of McCrory’s tenure.

“The governor’s involvement is basically a formality of following state statute,” McCrory said in an interview with WRAL.

He accused Club for Growth of “trying to steal this election through deception” and said “maybe the new lieutenant governor doesn't know that law.”

Robinson said in an interview that McCrory should’ve done more to prevent those appointments.

“I have the greatest respect for Pat and what he did when he was governor,” said Robinson, who voted for McCrory in previous elections. “But I don't think that he pushed as hard as he could on that issue and stood as firm as he could have on that issue. I feel like the main issues that we're dealing with now are because he did not do that, and that's the reason why I had no problem making those statements in that ad.”

Robinson said he decided to endorse Budd after he started to view the GOP primary contest as a two-man race. The decision to back Budd meant Robinson also wouldn’t support his close friend, former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, who is also running for the seat.

“I have great respect for Ted Budd,” Robinson said. “I have great respect for the volume of conservative work that he has done and I think he will make a fantastic senator. Because it did come down between him and Pat McCrory, I feel like [Budd’s] the much more viable and better candidate. We had to do what we felt like we needed to do in order to beat the Democrat in November.”

A WRAL News online survey of likely Republican primary voters had Budd with 33% support, McCrory with 23% and Walker at 7%. One in three respondents said they were undecided. The poll, conducted from April 6 to 10, reported a margin of error of 5 percentage points.
U.S. Rep. Ted Budd has a 10-point lead over former Gov. Pat McCrory in a WRAL News poll of Republican primary voters ahead of the May 17 election. But many voters are still undecided.

In the ad, Robinson labels Budd as the most “principled, conservative choice” for Republican primary voters. The lieutenant governor also mentions his support for McCrory’s past gubernatorial bids.

“I’ve voted for Pat McCrory in the past, but not this time,” Robinson says in the ad. “Pat’s a nice guy, but he’s no conservative.”

On the claim about McCrory backing Democratic judges, Club for Growth cites McCrory’s 1994 support for Democratic Judge Robert Burroughs and a 2013 story of a reappointment for a Democratic special judge.

The ad makes no mention of Walker, who has been praised by Robinson in recent months.

“What little bit I can do, I’m gonna do for you as well,” Robinson said to Walker during a speech that Walker posted on social media last month.

Robinson first endorsed Budd at an April 9 rally held in Johnston County by former President Donald Trump, who backed Budd in June 2021. Robinson said he had supported McCrory’s gubernatorial general election bids in 2012 and 2016. He also shared why he chose not to support Walker.

Robinson said in the interview that he still holds Walker in high regards but had to make a decision based on who he viewed as the key contenders in the GOP primary.

“It was something I really had to pray about,” Robinson said. “It was something I did not take lightly because me and him have been very close.”