RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Former Governor Pat McCrory and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker squared off in a debate to be North Carolina’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate, looking to fill retiring Senator Richard Burr’s seat. The debate was hosted by WRAL News.

Topics ranged from abortion restrictions to the war in Ukraine, as well as the economy.

The inflation rate is climbing, with the 8.5 percent year-to-year increase being the largest in 40 years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

So, what will the Senate hopefuls do to fight it?

“The first two things I would do is unleash America’s energy resources, and the second thing I would do is quit giving free money away,” McCrory said.

Walker addressed spending in his answer.

“Republicans like to talk about fiscal responsibility, but only a few will step up to the pump, until we get our spending under control, we’re not gonna get a handle on inflation,” Walker said.

Frontrunner Rep. Ted Budd declined to show up to the debate. He had this to say when asked about it earlier Thursday.

“What do we do with the remaining four and a half, five, weeks that we have,” Budd said. “And do I spend it talking to a TV camera? Or do I spend it talking to voters that I haven’t yet met? So it’s really a choice, and we’re making the choice, week by week, and I’m going to say that we’re talking to voters all around the state.”

McCrory came to the CBS 17 newsroom before the debate and said this about Budd not being on stage.

“His only experience is Washington, D.C., and he doesn’t have time to debate in front of the people of North Carolina,” he said. “That’s an insult to the people of North Carolina.”

Additionally, North Carolina’s unemployment rate is trending downward. When asked about filling vacant jobs McCrory addressed reducing unemployment compensation. Walker focused on small businesses.

“Until we get the government out of the small business arena, we’re gonna continue to suffer,” Walker said.

The winner of the Republican primary would face likely Democratic nominee Cheri Beasley in the general election.

One-stop early voting is April 28, the primary is May 17.