Establishment-backed North Carolina U.S. Senate candidate Pat McCrory (R) released a television advertisement for his campaign on Tuesday, accusing his top competitor Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) of being “friendly toward Russia.”

The advertisement is titled “Stand With Me” and hits airwaves across North Carolina beginning on March 8. McCrory’s office asserts that it is the first paid television advertisement in the country “that deals with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.” The ad contains a clip of Budd reportedly calling Putin “very intelligent.” McCrory ends by telling voters that Americans are living in “serious times” that call for “serious Senators”  and says he does not “compliment our enemies,” unlike Budd. 


“Since Russia invaded Ukraine, sitting Congressman Budd has repeatedly praised Putin and excused his invasion, all while Ukrainian women and children are being killed,” said McCrory Strategist Jordan Shaw said in a statement.  “Budd’s comments are not only indefensible and irresponsible, they’re also proof that he’s not ready to be a US Senator.  We are confident Republican primary voters will agree as they see this ad.”

In a statement to Breitbart News, Budd’s senior campaign adviser Jonathan Felts slammed McCrory for using “empty soundbites” and “underestimating the opposition.”

“Governor McCrory has a long track-record of underestimating the opposition, which is why he’s already lost twice and is about to lose again. Just like Obama and Biden, Governor McCrory seems determined to underestimate Putin,” Felts said. “Ted Budd knows these are serious times that require strength, not the empty soundbites preferred by career politicians like Biden and McCrory, and he accurately described Putin as an evil, intelligent threat to be taken seriously.”

The ad was notably edited to leave out Budd’s full comments — in the February 26, 2022, Fox News interview, Budd called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “evil” and said, “this is a sovereign nation in the Ukraine, and we stand with the Ukraine people.”

Budd again called Putin “evil” and an “international thug” in an interview with a CBS affiliate.

Despite McCrory’s claims that Budd’s votes are “friendly to Russia” and that he voted against sanctions on Russia, the congressman’s first bill to pass the House was included in former President Donald Trump’s Russian sanctions package in 2017. He has also sponsored multiple pieces of legislation in the last month to get tough on Russia, including the “Prohibition on Imports of Russian Oil Act,” the “Expediting Natural Gas Exports to Allies Act,” and others.

The primary, which was postponed until May 17 because of ongoing redistricting litigation, is developing in its early stages into a competitive face-off between a Trump-backed congressman and a longtime mayor-turned-governor. McCrory and Budd have been neck and neck in recent polling — a poll conducted by Cygnal from January 7 to 9 found Budd with 34.2 percent support compared to McCrory’s 33.2 percent. Another 32.6 percent said they were undecided.

McCrory is notably backed by outgoing Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), one of the seven Senate Republicans who voted in favor of convicting Trump of his impeachment charges in 2021. McCrory served as Charlotte mayor for 14 years, governor for one term, and host to a popular Charlotte-based radio show before terminating it last year to run for office.

Budd, a gun store owner serving his third term in the U.S. House, received an endorsement from former President Donald Trump in June and is expected to pick up some support from Trump’s base in a state that narrowly voted in favor of the former president in 2020. 

Trump has since reportedly attempted to talk conservative competitor former Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) into running for a House seat instead of the Senate, which would strengthen Budd’s position in the race Politico reported. However, Walker has maintained his stance, telling Fox News last month that he is “the number-one America First-rated candidate.” 

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