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Former GOP congressman exits House race to join Trump campaign

By Piper Hudspeth Blackburn and Dianne Gallagher, CNN

(CNN) — Former US Rep. Mark Walker is ending his congressional comeback bid in North Carolina to join Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, warding off what could have been a competitive House primary runoff against an opponent backed by the former president.

Former state health care lobbyist Addison McDowell, who had the support of Trump and several losing candidates in the Republican primary, will advance to the general election in North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District, which state GOP lawmakers redrew last year to heavily favor their party.

Walker said Wednesday that he had chosen not to file for a runoff and would instead join Trump’s presidential campaign  as director of outreach for faith and minority communities.

“After speaking with Addison directly over the last several days, I’m convinced Addison can do great things for the people of the 6th district which allowed me to not file for the upcoming runoff and work immediately and directly with President Trump, leading the effort into our faith based and minority communities,”  the former pastor said on social media.

As no candidate secured more than 30% of the vote in the March 5 primary, state law allows for the top two vote-getters to advance to a runoff election if the second-place finisher – in this case, Walker – requests one.

Over the past week, Walker had been talking as if a runoff would take place, even suggesting Tuesday that he and McDowell debate one another. However, he had yet to officially request a runoff and confirmed Wednesday that he would not.

Walker also indicated Wednesday that he had been offered a role in a potential second Trump administration, saying that “after the Biden administration is defeated in November, I’m grateful for the offer to continue our work with President Trump in the White House.”

Trump announced Walker’s new position on his campaign shortly before the former congressman revealed his plans Wednesday.

“Mark and I had many Wins together, and we look forward to continuing to build bridges to all Communities in our Great Nation, and advancing this important work in the White House,” the former president said. “Welcome Mark!”

This is not the first time Trump has weighed in on a House election this cycle. Besides endorsing in other races, Trump was among several Republicans who successfully encouraged Tennessee Rep. Mark Green to reverse his decision to retire and run for reelection, CNN previously reported.

Walker served in the House from 2015 to 2021, opting to leave after redistricting turned his seat into a Democratic-leaning one. During his time in Congress, he chaired the conservative Republican Study Committee and served in House GOP leadership. He made an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2022, losing in the primary to Rep. Ted Budd, who had Trump’s endorsement. He briefly ran for governor this cycle, before dropping his bid and entering the 6th District race.

With 6th District Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning opting to retire rather than run for the redrawn safe GOP seat and no Democrat attempting to succeed her, McDowell, a onetime congressional aide to Budd, is on track to enter Congress next year.

“Thank you, #NC06! I am honored to be your next Congressman,” McDowell posted on social media after Walker ended his campaign.

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