The top of the ballot drives voter turnout and the top of the ballot in the May 17 primary is the US Senate race.

It is an open seat because Sen. Richard Burr is not running for reelection, and open Senate seats are rare.

On the Democratic side, former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court Cheri Beasley doesn’t appear to have a serious challenge.

However, on the Republican side it’s a whole different story and, according to a poll released by North Carolina Values Coalition, 13th District Congressman Ted Budd has taken a narrow lead.  The NC Values polls shows Budd with 32 percent followed by former Gov. Pat McCrory with 29 percent, former 6th District Congressman Mark Walker with 12 percent and Marjorie Eastman at 2 percent.  The poll reported 25 percent were undecided.

McCrory started out with a commanding lead and Budd has been whittling away at it in poll after poll.  The 3-point advantage for Budd is within the margin of error of 4.4 percent for the poll.

A Civitas poll in January had McCrory with 24 percent, Budd with 19 percent and Walker with 7 percent.

The Budd campaign has maintained that McCrory was in the lead due to name recognition and that once the Budd statewide advertising campaign kicked in the McCrory lead would drop.

McCrory is running his fourth statewide campaign.  McCrory ran for governor in 2008 and lost to Bev Perdue, and then in 2012 McCrory defeated Walter Dalton in the governor’s race. Running as an incumbent in 2016, McCrory lost to Gov. Roy Cooper in an election where Donald Trump carried the state and Sen. Richard Burr was reelected by a margin of over 5 percent.

Budd by contrast made his first foray into politics in 2016 when he won the Republican primary in the newly drawn 13th Congressional District over 16 Republican primary candidates.  The 13th District is considered a safe Republican district and Budd easily won the 2016 general election and had no difficulty in getting reelected in 2018 and 2020.

Walker had served in Congress since 2014 but did not run for reelection in the 6th District in 2020 after it was redrawn as a safe Democratic district.  He announced he was running for the Senate in December 2020.