Mark Walker is officially in the race for U.S. Senate in 2022. That’s no big surprise. When Walker’s Congressional district got redrawn to favor a Democrat, he took a pass on running for re-election. People speculated at the time that he would seek the Senate seat being vacated by Richard Burr. In fact, he was rumored to have considered running in a primary against Thom Tillis in 2020.
Walker is a savvy politician. He won his seat by defeating Phil Berger, Jr., in a primary and runoff in 2014. Most political observers in the state believed that Berger, son and namesake of the President Pro Tem of the state senate, was the frontrunner. Walker, a Baptist minister, shocked the state, though, and won rather handily.
In the House, Walker led the Republican Study Commission, the largest conservative caucus in the House and more moderate than its rival, the Freedom Caucus. While Walker is a strong social conservative, he avoided the controversy of people like Mark Meadows, who left the House to become Trump’s White House Chief of Staff. Walker comes across as more reasonable and personable than the prickly Meadows, former leader of the Freedom Caucus, who comes across as ideological and intellectually dim.
Walker is probably trying to reduce the amount of competition in what is sure to be a competitive GOP primary. He can get a head start on fundraising and organization. However, early starts only matter if he can get people and money behind him at a time when a lot of folks are tired of politics.
Besides Walker, several prominent Republicans are said to be interested in the Senate seat. House Speaker Tim Moore has been moving around the state and long rumored to be looking for a move up. Back in 2014, Phil Berger, Sr., considered running for the seat that Thom Tillis holds now. Congressman George Holding has been drawn out of his district and could certainly mount a challenge. Dan Forest doesn’t seem ready to quit yet, either. However, nationally this year, Republicans were most successful when they ran women or minority candidates. A slew of white men on a ballot might dampen any enthusiasm in a general election.
Turnout in 2022 will be key. Before 2018, midterm elections have been more favorable to Republicans. In 2010 and 2014, Republicans did well both in the state and nationally. Democrats’ coalition of younger voters and minority voters showed up for presidential years, but not midterms. In 2018, though, it was the Democratic coalition that showed up, offsetting the GOP turnout advantage in North Carolina, and giving Democrats a good year. Whether that coalition comes out to support a Biden presidency or just came out to oppose Trump will determine how the Senate race unfolds.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >