Mark Walker didn’t get to be where he is today — a former US Congressman from a gerrymandered district that was declared illegal in 2019 — by playing it safe.

Last week Walker announced that he would run for the Senate seat soon to be vacated by Richard Burr, explicitly against the wishes of Donald Trump, who is backing Rep. Ted Budd.

That part went down back in December, at Mar a Lago, where Trump offered Walker an endorsement for the 7th Congressional District, which currently encompasses all of Alamance, Chatham, Lee and Randolph counties, plus a few slices of Wake, Harnett and Davidson, along with a corner of Guilford that includes just a drop of east Greensboro.

This is a big risk.

Walker’s consistently polled behind Budd and the other GOP candidate, Pat McCrory. And he can’t even touch them in the money game yet — as of December 31 each of his opponents have a couple million in their respective war chests while Walker had raised $1.5 million in total and already spent most of that.

There’s very little ideological daylight between Walker and Budd, who both rose to prominence back in the tea party days — Walker as the assistant pastor at Lawndale Baptist Church where the Guilford County Tea Party was founded, Budd a gun-shop owner who posted tasteless billboards on the interstate. The main difference is that Budd voted to overturn the 2020 election and Walker, who did not hold elected office at the time, did not. And, of course, there’s Trump’s endorsement.

Walker is gambling that Trump’s imprimatur won’t mean as much to Republican and unaffiliated voters when the primary comes along in May. Budd is banking on the suspicion that it will. All this leaves McCrory, who has been competitive in polling, hoping to split the difference.

Worth mentioning, too, that former NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, the prevailing Democrat in the race, has outraised and outspent everyone else who’s left, and still had the most cash on hand at the end of 2021. So there’s no guarantee that a Republican will win this race, especially considering that registered Democrats (2.4795 million) and unaffiliated (2.479 million) North Carolinians outnumber Republicans (2.185 million) by more than 300,000 voters apiece.

Going strictly by the math — and the fact that you can’t gerrymander a statewide election — it actually seems unlikely that a Republican will prevail.

So unless Walker knows something that the rest of us don’t, it looks like he just gave up an easy Congressional race for an impossible Senate one, alienating Trump and his minions to boot.

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