Source: Editorial Board
Democratic North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced earlier this month that he will be running to replace the term-limited Gov. Roy Cooper in the Executive Mansion in downtown Raleigh.
While the announcement didn’t come as much of a shock to those who follow state politics, the fact that he declared so early – nearly two years before the 2024 election – was a bit surprising.
At this point, Stein doesn’t have any official Democratic or Republican challengers, but Mark Robinson, North Carolina’s right-wing extremist Lieutenant Governor, has hinted many times that he intends to run for governor. If he runs, Robinson will be heavily favored to get the Republican nomination.
With that in mind, Stein’s campaign announcement video took direct aim at Robinson and his history of disgusting and offensive views.
“Robinson wants to tell you who you can marry, when you’ll be pregnant, and who you should hate,” Stein said in the video. “I’m running for governor because I believe in a very different North Carolina, one rooted in our shared values of freedom, justice and opportunity for everyone. And I believe the fights we choose show who we are and determine what kind of state we’ll become.”
Unlike Robinson, who believes abortion should be illegal in every instance (despite paying for his wife’s abortion), Stein is a staunch supporter of reproductive rights. In multiple interviews with WRAL last year, he hinted that he would run for governor and put a heavy focus on defending access to abortion in North Carolina.
In August 2022, Stein said, “Politicians are playing with women’s lives. Decisions about reproductive care are deeply personal. They should be made by a woman in consultation with her loved ones and her doctor. They should not be made by politicians.”
That’s in stark contrast to what Robinson previously said – that once a person is pregnant, whether it was through rape, incest, or anything else, “it’s not [her] body anymore” and they should not be allowed to make the choice to terminate their pregnancy.
In an interview with The Assembly following his gubernatorial announcement, Stein focused on the differences between Robinson and himself, saying that he believes that those differences will be the focus during the campaign.
“Do the voters want someone who fights culture wars, or someone who fights for them?” Stein said. “Someone who thinks … the climate crisis isn’t real, versus someone who wants to prepare for the future. Someone who wants to tell women when they’ll be pregnant, versus somebody who believes and will defend people’s personal freedoms and reproductive health care. Someone who believes homosexuality is filth, versus somebody who believes that we’re all children of God?”
Another interesting difference between Stein and Robinson is their religion. Stein is the first Jewish person to win statewide office in North Carolina (in 2016) and Robinson is accused of being an anti-Semite and Christian nationalist who uses his interpretation of the Bible to tear down North Carolinians who don’t hold the same beliefs.
There haven’t been many rumblings on the Democratic side as far as other potential gubernatorial candidates, but there could be five or more Republicans who run. Aside from Robinson, there have been whispers that North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, and/or former Rep. Mark Walker could all take a shot at becoming the next governor.
Regardless of which Republicans end up running and which one gets the nomination, they’ll likely be coming into any race with Stein at a cash disadvantage. According to WRAL, Stein has raised more than $5 million over the past two years and has close to $4 million in cash on hand. Robinson’s campaign said late last year that they expect the gubernatorial race to cost $100 million or more.
It’s not known yet if the Democratic field will be clear for Stein to get the nomination, but it’s looking likely that Republicans will have a long, expensive and bitter nomination process, considering the potential candidates.
Within a week of Stein’s announcement, his campaign website was already touting endorsements from more than 150 current and former officials across the state, including the likes of former Gov. Jim Hunt, U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross, former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Sam J. Ervin IV, former U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield and State House Democratic Leader Rep. Robert Reives.
No matter who the candidates end up being, Democrats will need to stick together in order to maintain control of the Governor’s mansion. So far, it looks like Stein has plenty of support in his run to succeed Cooper.