North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a Republican, formally announced his candidacy for governor as he eyes the party ticket to replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in 2024.
“I’m running for governor because we the people of North Carolina needs someone who understands us. We don’t need another politician,” Robinson told a crowd of roughly 1,000 supporters Saturday at the Ace Speedway in Alamance County, about a half-hour from where he grew up. “I stand before you now as the first Black lieutenant governor of North Carolina. And that is a testament that anything in our state and nation is possible.”
Robinson, a political newcomer elected lieutenant governor in 2020, threw continued support behind Republicans U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, serving North Carolina’s 8th District, and U.S. Sen. Ted Budd, the Trump-backed candidate who defeated Democrat Cheri Beasley in November, filling the coveted seat vacated by Republican Sen. Richard Burr in the battleground state.
“This runaway spending by the liberal elite in Washington is creating devastating effects on the cost of living, and its everyday North Carolinians that are paying the price. We must continue to support people like Congressman Bishop and Sen. Budd, who are fighting against these terrible policies,” Robinson said Saturday. “Here in the state, we deserve and need to have a governor who will lead the charge against irresponsible liberal policies that would hurt our economy and our state. Government should work hand in hand with business to promote success. Not attack it. Here in North Carolina, we’ve seen what happens when we implement responsible fiscal policies thanks to Republican leadership. Thanks to Republican leadership in North Carolina, we went from being billions in debt to the federal government to being named the best state in the country to do business. That does not happen overnight. It happened because of hard work. We must continue to be a state that encourages businesses to relocate here. But we need to ensure we’re not just providing economic incentives.”
Robinson’s entry was anticipated for well over a year, with the Greensboro native heavily hinting at a run in speeches and fundraising appeals. The 54-year-old also released an autobiography that talked about a childhood of poverty, financial challenges as an adult, his religious beliefs and his late entry into politics.
“I was supposed to be crushed by racism as a Black man in the South,” he said Saturday. “I have a chance to be a symbol to others in humble beginnings, and despite what anyone else may tell you, you can achieve anything.”
Other competitors are also lining up to try to succeed Cooper, who is barred by the state constitution from seeking a third consecutive term.
Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein announced his bid in January. Republican State Treasurer Dale Folwell also got in the race last month. Additionally, former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., is preparing to enter the race in the coming weeks, according to Tim Murtaugh, a spokesperson for a consulting firm advising Walker.
Robinson’s popularity among the Republican base and flush coffers put him squarely at the top of the list of candidates for a GOP primary.
A staunch conservative, Robinson’s comments about the LGBTQ+ community, abortion and the role of women will likely come into consideration during the Republican primary, as the party decides who will be the most competitive challenger in such a closely divided state during what will also be a presidential election year. Robinson has said he was not focusing criticisms made at conservative churches and radio shows over the years against the LGBTQ+ community in general, but rather against transgender and sexually explicit reading materials in schools.
Robinson said Saturday he wants to make North Carolina a “destination state for life,” which he said includes his support for legislation preventing abortions once an ultrasound first detects fetal cardiac activity, typically about six weeks after fertilization. State law currently bans nearly all abortions after 20 weeks. His speech also focused on school safety and law enforcement.
Despite Republican success in controlling the state legislature, the GOP has won the governor’s office just once since 1992, back in 2012. The office of lieutenant governor has been considered for several decades as a stepping stone to the state’s highest office. But since the late 1960s, only three of them — all Democrats — have made the leap to governor.
A former factory worker and day care operator, Robinson gained notoriety from a viral video of his 2018 speech to the Greensboro City Council about attempts to cancel a local gun show.
Stein’s campaign-opening video accused Robinson of wanting “to tell you who you can marry, when you’ll be pregnant and who you should hate.” Additionally, Folwell said last month that Robinson has spent his time in the political spotlight “attacking people instead of attacking the important problems that our citizens are facing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.