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 U.S. 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, U.S. Rep. David Rouzer and Michael Whatley, the chairman of the N.C. 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.
Crowds continue to gather before program starts
Update 3:45 p.m.: 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. Bleachers behind and surrounding the stage are beginning to fill.
In between popular songs by Elvis Presley and other artists, political ads about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. 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.
Democrats blast Budd and Hines for appearing with Trump
Update 3:20 p.m.: Ahead of the rally, North Carolina Democrats blasted U.S. 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 N.C. 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.