Politics

Mark Walker jumps into North Carolina Senate race, hoping to ward off Lara Trump and other potential rivals.

WASHINGTON — Representative Mark Walker announced on Tuesday that he would run for North Carolina’s open Senate seat in 2022, kicking off what is likely to be a fierce Republican primary that could pit him against President Trump’s daughter-in-law in a key swing state.

In an interview, Mr. Walker, a former Baptist pastor from Greensboro, sought to frame himself as a “bridge builder” between Republicans and groups that the party had struggled to reach in recent years, particularly Black voters.

“I am trying to make the case you might want to select somebody who has the ability, or the history to work with people from all different communities,” he said. “I have a track record of going to places and accomplishing things that Republicans have not been able to do.”

Mr. Walker, 51, announced last year that he would not seek re-election after a court ordered North Carolina to redraw its congressional map, making his district much more Democratic.

He had been mulling a Senate run for months after Senator Richard M. Burr, a fellow Republican, decided to retire. By entering the race just days after North Carolina certified its November elections, Mr. Walker was aiming to potentially box out other Republicans contemplating getting into the race.

Other Republicans who are eyeing Mr. Burr’s seat include Lara Trump, the wife of the president’s son Eric Trump; Pat McCrory, the former governor; Representative George Holding, who is also retiring; and Dan Forest, the state’s lieutenant governor who ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor this year.

Ms. Trump has told associates that she is considering entering the contest, and her campaign could be a test of the family’s political staying power once Mr. Trump leaves the White House.

Despite stylistic differences, Mr. Walker has been a close ally of Mr. Trump in the House and would welcome his support in the Senate contest. Still, he offered a subtle dig on Tuesday at the president’s daughter-in-law, who resides in Westchester County but has North Carolina roots.

“If somebody wants to move to the state, legally they can do that, but it doesn’t deter me,” Mr. Walker said. “I have nothing to say but good things about their family.”

At least one potential contender has already passed on the race. Mark Meadows, another North Carolina conservative and Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, said last month he would not run for the seat as some expected.

Democrats see the seat as one of their best pickup opportunities in 2022. Erica D. Smith, a state senator has already indicated she will run again, after losing the Democratic primary this year to Cal Cunningham, who fell short in his bid to unseat Senator Thom Tillis. Other possible candidates include Josh Stein, the state’s attorney general, and Jeff Jackson, another state senator.

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