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In campaign ad, McCrory calls out Budd on Putin, sanctions

March 9, 2022 GMT
Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory answers questions from the media after he filed as a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C., on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Gary D. Robertson)
Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory answers questions from the media after he filed as a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C., on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Gary D. Robertson)
Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory answers questions from the media after he filed as a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C., on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Gary D. Robertson)
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Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory answers questions from the media after he filed as a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C., on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Gary D. Robertson)
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Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory answers questions from the media after he filed as a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C., on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Gary D. Robertson)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — U.S. Senate candidate Pat McCrory wants to make Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a pivotal issue in the North Carolina Republican primary, accusing GOP rival Rep. Ted Budd in a television ad of being soft on President Vladimir Putin and Russian sanctions.

The commercial, which began airing Wednesday on cable, uses pieces of recent TV interviews that Budd gave to attempt to paint him as being complimentary of Putin. The ad marks the first in the race for McCrory, who was governor from 2013 through 2016. It seeks to counter a wave of commercials that the Club for Growth Action super PAC has run backing the congressman and attacking McCrory.

“These are serious times and we need serious senators,” McCrory says in the commercial. “I don’t compliment our enemies. I stand for truth and freedom.” The ad doesn’t mention by name former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed Budd for the Senate seat last June and has taken heat for praising Putin as “smart.” The ad allows McCrory to differentiate from Budd without squarely criticizing Trump as well.

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The commercial shows a snippet from Budd’s interview with a Raleigh TV station last week after he filed as an official candidate. In it, Budd referred to Putin as a “very intelligent actor.” The ad omits what Budd said before and after.

“I would say Putin is evil, but that doesn’t mean he’s not smart. He’s a very intelligent actor, although I would say he’s been quite erratic in his approach to the Ukraine,” Budd told CBS 17. “It was very predictable what he would do, but at the same time, Putin is evil. He’s an international thug, but he is intelligent, so we have to treat him as such.”

Budd campaign adviser Jonathan Felts said Budd “accurately described Putin as an evil, intelligent threat to be taken seriously” and called McCrory a “desperate candidate flailing about.”

McCrory also accused Budd of opposing sanctions against Russia, citing legislation going back to 2017 in which he voted no or didn’t vote. Felts said the congressman opposed some of those bills because he believed they were power grabs to strip power from the president.

McCrory’s commercial was running on Fox News in North Carolina as part of the campaign’s accumulated ad plans for the primary, campaign spokesperson Jordan Shaw said. He declined to give a price tag for ad spending but said Wednesday’s commercial would run on over-the-air channels soon.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, combat veteran Marjorie Eastman and 10 other GOP candidates are seeking the party’s nomination in the May 17 primary. Budd’s campaign raised slightly more in the fourth quarter than McCrory. The primary winner is likely to take on former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who is the Democratic primary frontrunner. Current GOP Sen. Richard Burr isn’t seeking reelection.