The first debate for the Republican primary for the US Senate seat, which is being sponsored by the John Locke Foundation, is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 26 from 3:30 to 4:30 pm.

According to a Feb. 8 press release from the Locke Foundation, three candidates have committed to participating in the debate and it may not be the first three that come to mind.

So far former NC Gov. Pat McCrory, former 6th District Congressman Mark Walker and Marjorie Eastman have committed to the debate.

13th District Congressman Ted Budd has been invited but has not confirmed participation.

Debates and who would participate has been an issue in the race.  Conventional wisdom in political debates is that the candidate who is ahead in the polls wants to have as few debates as possible and the candidate who is behind wants to have as many debates as possible.

Following that logic, McCrory, who is ahead in the polls should not be participating and Budd, who is running second in the polls, should.  The Budd campaign has maintained that although the latest polling shows Budd with 19 percent and  McCrory with 24 percent, that the gap is narrowing and Budd is on track to continue to narrow that lead. 

Walker, who is a distant third with 7 percent, held a campaign rally in Greensboro on Jan. 27 to announce he was staying in the Senate race.

In this debate, it appears candidate who has the most to gain is Walker.  As a former Baptist pastor, Walker is far and away the best speaker of the three frontrunners.  But Walker has not been able to raise nearly the amount of campaign funds as the two frontrunners.

A debate will give Walker more exposure to people outside the Piedmont Triad, where he is well known without the expenditure of campaign funds.

McCrory, who having run for governor three times and won once, has had a lot more experience in political debates than his opponents and already has the statewide name recognition that Budd and Walker lack.

Budd hasn’t had a serious challenge since he won the 6th District Republican primary in 2016.  So, he doesn’t have McCrory’s experience in debates and is not as dynamic a speaker as Walker, which may explain why Budd has not committed to the debate. 

Budd has plenty of money in his campaign war chest to get his name out there and was endorsed by former President Donald Trump in June 2021, which gave his campaign a big boost.

Eastman had just under 1 percent support in the latest polls.