RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- He is already a member of Congress, but Ted Budd thinks he can make a greater impact for North Carolina if he moves to the other chamber.
"I want North Carolina to be a beacon of economic and educational opportunity," Rep. Budd, the Republican Congressman from outside Winston-Salem now running for U.S. Senate, told ABC11 in a one-on-one interview. "I look forward to being the representative in the senate who gets to do that for 10 million North Carolinians."
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First elected to Congress in 2016, Budd has emerged as one of President Donald Trump's biggest supporters in Washington, and helped usher in the former President's key achievements, including the US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) Trade Agreement, as well as the 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.
"I've got a proven record in the U.S. Congress and you can't run away from that record nor would I ever want to," Budd insisted. "I'm the only one that's been a job creator. I talk about the opportunities for American working families out there. I'm the one that's done that and been part of small businesses and I still own a small business."
WATCH | Rep. Ted Budd's full interview with ABC11
According to his official campaign website, Budd identifies himself as a "liberal agenda crusher," but it's his day-job as a small-business owner he said should resonate with all North Carolinians.
"It's a gun range, an indoor training range in Rural Hall, just north of Winston Salem. I bought it 11 years ago out of bankruptcy with my first customer being a police department and I was encouraged by them to open it to the public," Budd explained. "You think about the effect of taxation. You think about the effect of regulation. You want government to lay out a fair playing ground for everyone."
If Budd is to succeed the retiring Sen. Richard Burr in the Senate, he will first have to win a contested Republican primary against his former colleague in Congress, Mark Walker, and his former governor, Pat McCrory.
Budd, however, has already earned one important distinction as the only candidate in the race endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
"There are other districts around this state that don't know who I am, but they know who the president is," Budd said. "I tell people that I support his policies but my style is distinctly North Carolinian. I believe we can make America great again. That was former President's term, but I really believe in America's strength, I believe in America's fiscal responsibility. I believe in personal responsibility."
In addition to his economic policies, Budd pointed to Trump's stances on immigration and foreign issues as other centerpieces to his own political agenda. Looking to the future, though, he thinks inflation is the number one concern among voters.
WATCH | Rep. Ted Budd's full interview with ABC11
"You're seeing massive government spending which doesn't drive up productivity. So you have all this money out there and then you do things to incentivize people to stay home. You got less people in the workforce. You want to help working families but by getting government to do it I think you create the wrong incentives. A lot of times there's just a worldview difference when someone says the government needs to support you from cradle to grave versus more of a Republican approach which is provide an environment where you can thrive and have dignity of growing your own world, career and opportunities for people."
As the only candidate in the primary who's actively in government, Budd is the only one with a voting record related to President Biden's agenda, and that includes a "no" vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework that was signed into law by Biden and supported by North Carolina's two Republican senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.
"It's not 'are you all for it or all against it.' It's how are you implementing it and how are you going to pay for it and who's going to pay for it and how much you're going to do."
Prior to Biden's inauguration, Budd was among the first of North Carolina's Republican congressmen to announce his intention to challenge the certification of certain electoral votes, thus delaying Biden's certain (and legal) victory.
Nearly one year later, Budd is unambiguous in recognizing Biden's victory, despite former President Trump's repeated claims of a "rigged" or "stolen" election.
"I look at Joe Biden - he is the president. I really think North Carolina should re-implement Voter ID and I have a lot of concerns, but the process played out. He is the president and I'm going to be responsible for my rhetoric."
North Carolina, of course, is not exclusive to a contested primary battle, but the State Supreme Court's decision to delay the primary from March 8th until May 17th will give Budd, along with his rivals, even more time to make his case to Republican voters.
"I want folks to know who Ted Budd is, that Ted is for them and is for creating jobs and opportunities for them and someone they can trust. I love growing opportunity for others."