RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ted Budd began running his first primary election commercial statewide Wednesday, highlighting the congressman's endorsement from former President Donald Trump and portraying himself as tough on illegal immigration.

What You Need To Know

  • The commercial is part of $2.5 million in expected ad buys by U.S. Rep. Ted Budd's campaign leading to the May 17 GOP primary for the U.S. Senate race

  • Budd's most prominent rivals include former Gov. Pat McCrory, ex-Rep. Mark Walker and combat veteran Marjorie Eastman

  • A group called Conservative Outsider PAC plans almost $1 million in TV ads opposing McCrory

The commercial, which is running in all of the state's TV markets and on streaming platforms, includes footage of a pistol-packing Budd walking along the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Budd says if elected to the Senate, he will vote to stop President Joe Biden's “reckless open-border policies and yeah, finish this wall."

“Protecting North Carolina jobs and families starts right here,” Budd added. The footage was recorded while Budd, now in his third House term, visited the border in September.

Budd's campaign will spend about $150,000 on commercials in the next week, campaign adviser Jonathan Felts wrote in an email. He said it's part of $2.5 million in expected ad buys by Budd's campaign leading to the May 17 GOP primary. The ad ran briefly one day last week during an NCAA basketball game, the campaign said.

Budd is among the high-profile candidates in the 14-member GOP primary, along with former Gov. Pat McCrory, ex-Rep. Mark Walker and combat veteran Marjorie Eastman. The winner likely will take on Democratic primary frontrunner Cheri Beasley in the fall. GOP Sen. Richard Burr did not seek reelection.

PAC spending

The commercial's wide airing came on the same day an independent expenditure committee called Conservative Outsider PAC planned to begin television ads opposing McCrory, at a cost of nearly $1 million, according to a Federal Election Commission filing. Documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission by TV stations in major North Carolina markets confirm ad buys by the group.

An anti-McCrory ad on the group's YouTube page contends McCrory was soft on immigrants who were in the country unlawfully when he was mayor of Charlotte. The ad says for years, Charlotte was “a sanctuary city — Mayor Pat McCrory didn't seem to mind."

McCrory campaign spokesperson Jordan Shaw said the commercial is “another deceptively pathetic and ineffective ad” designed to draw attention away from Budd's comments late last month to a reporter that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “very intelligent actor.” That was the subject of McCrory's first primary commercial. Budd also called Putin “evil” and an “international thug.”

Shaw pointed out that while governor, McCrory signed 2015 legislation that addresses “sanctuary cities” by barring local governments from approving policies preventing a person from being asked their immigration status.

FEC records show the Conservative Outsider PAC received $225,000 last summer from Midwest shipping supply magnate Dick Uihlein, who is a large contributor to conservative causes.

According to records, Uihlein already this year has donated $12 million to Club for Growth Action, which is strongly backing Budd in the race. The super PAC has pledged well over $10 million to support Budd's campaign, some of which already has been spent on anti-McCrory ads and mailers.