Former President Donald Trump returns to North Carolina on Friday to hold a rally in support of Republican candidates he has endorsed in two crucial races on the ballot this fall.
Trump will speak at the Aero Center in Wilmington, following remarks by US Senate candidate Ted Budd as well as Bo Hines, who is running in North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District. Other speakers will include Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, US Rep. David Rouzer and Michael Whatley, the chairman of the NC Republican Party.
The rally comes about six weeks from Election Day, and Budd and Hines remain locked in competitive races against their opponents, Democrats Cheri Beasley and Wiley Nickel. Both races could play a critical role in determining which party emerges from the midterms with control of Congress.
Follow this story for live updates from the rally.
Hines says GOP needs more ‘fighters’ in Congress
Update 5:10 pm: US House candidate Bo Hines, running in North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District, walked out to loud cheers and promptly told the crowd why he was running for Congress.
“We couldn’t sit back idly by any longer, and watch radical Marxist leftists attempt to destroy this country,” Hines said.
The 27-year-old, who won the GOP nomination in the 13th district with help from an endorsement by former President Donald Trump, said that too many politicians had failed to deliver on their campaign pledges, unlike Trump, who he said may have been the first president to deliver on “every single one of his promises.”
Hines said current members of Congress had put too much emphasis on trying to “compromise.” Instead, he said, he would “go on offense” on a number of issues, including protecting Second Amendment rights and the rights of parents to have a say in what materials their children are taught, and at what age.
NC GOP chairman lays out stakes in upcoming election
Update 4:40 p.m.: Running about 20 minutes late, the rally began with introductory remarks from NC GOP Chairman Michael Whatley.
Walking out to loud applause, Whatley said that voters were frustrated with the current state of the economy, mentioning inflation that reached a nearly 40-year high earlier this summer.
“Under President Trump, we had an economy that was on the rebound,” Whatley said. “Less than two years later, under President Biden, look where we are today.”
Whatley told supporters in the crowd that the stakes of the upcoming election could not be higher, saying that control of the US Senate, which is currently divided equally by both parties but controlled by Democrats thanks to a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris , could be decided by the race between Ted Budd and Cheri Beasley in North Carolina.
“When you think about this election, you need to think about how elections have consequences. We need to put guardrails around this White House.”
Crowds continue to gather before program starts
Update 4:15 pm: With the first speakers of Friday’s rally about to take to the stage, supporters of the former president continue to assemble at the Aero Center. At least 1,000 people appeared to have gathered on the bleachers behind and surrounding the stage, and other seating areas.
In between popular songs by Elvis Presley and other artists, political ads about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and US Senate candidate Ted Budd played on giant screens flanking the stage.
Outside the entrance, vendors were selling a variety of Trump-branded merchandise, including flags, signs, shirts and hats.
Melissa Harrell, 44, of Jacksonville, North Carolina, is attending her first Trump rally, along with her daughter Sierra Gerganous, and her daughter’s husband, Justin Gerganous.
Harrell said she came out because of her concerns about the economy and illegal immigration at the southern border. She also said she believed the 2020 election was stolen. Federal and local election officials have repeatedly stated that there’s no proof to support Trump’s assertions about the 2020 election, but his claims have been accepted by many of his supporters.
Democrats blast Budd and Hines for appearing with Trump
Update 3:20 pm: Ahead of the rally, North Carolina Democrats blasted US Senate candidate Ted Budd and House candidate Bo Hines for their ties to Trump, particularly in light of the former president’s false insistence that he won the 2020 election.
At a press conference at Wilmington’s 1898 Memorial Park, Charles Graham, a Democratic member of the NC House of Representatives who is running for Congress from North Carolina’s 7th district, said Trump and other speakers would “spew lies and try to deny democracy.”
“We must stand up against authoritarianism, a cult-like movement in this country that will undermine democracy,” Graham said. “Today, as I speak, we’re regaining our credibility in the world, our standing in the world. Folks, we can’t go backwards. We can’t take steps backwards, and let this MAGA movement take us backwards.”
National Democrats also weighed in. Monica Robinson, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which raises money to elect Democrats to the House, said Hines had “pledged to be a MAGA warrior in Congress.”
“When Bo Hines steps on that stage with Donald Trump tonight, he’ll be reminding North Carolina voters that he takes his marching orders from the most extreme wing of his party – not from North Carolinians,” Robinson said in a statement.
For more North Carolina government and politics news, listen to the Under the Dome politics podcast from The News & Observer and the NC Insider. You can find it at https://campsite.bio/underthedome or wherever you get your podcasts.
This story was originally published September 23, 2022 3:22 PM.