North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is facing a crowded primary on his way to seeking the Republican nomination for Governor. And his fellow candidates are not content to make it easy for him.
In addition to Robinson, there are four other Republicans running for governor – ex-U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, current North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell, former state Sen. Andy Wells and health care executive Jesse Thomas.
Folwell has stayed mostly quiet when it comes to attacks on Robinson, occasionally lumping him in with Donald Trump, while both Wells and Thomas have barely made a ripple since announcing their runs in the last several weeks.
As for Walker, he is at least partially responsible for Robinson’s rapid political rise. Walker was once a supporter and heavily promoted a video of Robinson’s 2018 Greensboro City Council speech about gun rights, which is part of what catapulted the former factory worker into his current role as lieutenant governor.
Walker, who ran for the retiring Richard Burr’s U.S. Senate seat in 2022, had been a staunch supporter of Donald Trump and was expected to be the frontrunner for the seat – until Trump endorsed Ted Budd, which shocked Walker and ended up sinking his campaign. Trump and Robinson are also big fans of each other and the twice-impeached former president has already said he will be supporting Robinson for governor, which is just another punch in the gut for Walker.
With that history in mind, it should come as no surprise that Walker now has some strong feelings about Robinson and others connected to Trump. Since he announced his run in late May, Walker has not shied away from really going at Robinson’s throat and the attacks have gotten personal.
The most recent attack Walker has made on Robinson has to do with the lieutenant governor’s history of financial issues, including the recent revelation that Robinson and his family were evicted from their Greensboro rental home in 2012 after they failed to pay their rent.
According to WRAL, the Robinsons’ landlord, Kermit Robinson (no relation), had been spending most of his time with his wife Margaret as she was on her deathbed with cancer. It was at that same time that Robinson quit paying rent, which resulted in Kermit Robinson not only losing money but also time with his dying wife as he had to deal with the legal proceedings involving his tenants. Neither Robinson nor his wife showed up to the court hearing. More than a decade later, the lieutenant governor still owes Kermit Robinson around $2,000 for the rent he never paid.
Mark Robinson, like many Americans, has had financial issues in the past. To his credit, he has also not been shy about some of those struggles. According to WRAL, he has criminal convictions for writing bad checks, and multiple bankruptcies and liens for tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes, car payments, and rent. Several of those debts have been paid, not including what he owes Kermit Robinson.
Although Robinson’s lived experiences and history of financial troubles could make him more appealing to some voters, the simple fact is that he is no longer poor or struggling and he shouldn’t act like he is.
As WRAL highlights, he has made more than $350,000 in salary since becoming lieutenant governor. He has also written a book and been paid for making speeches and appearances at events. His supporters have also given millions of dollars to his campaign, which according to campaign reports, has been used to buy thousands of dollars’ worth of clothes for himself and his wife Yolanda Hill.
Kermit Robinson told WRAL he understands that people go through struggles, but it’s how people handle those struggles that tell you what kind of person they are.
“Everybody goes through hard times at some point,” he said. “The quality of a person is — once they’ve gone through that — do they try to rectify their situation.”
In Mark Robinson’s case, he did not rectify the situation and he also has no plans to do so, according to his campaign.
Court records show that when Mark Robinson’s family was evicted in 2012, the judge ordered the family out of the house, but not to repay their landlord. Kermit Robinson told WRAL he could have pursued the back rent in court, but it would have taken up more of his time and his wife died a few weeks later, which distracted him from doing anything else.
When reached by WRAL, Robinson’s communications director blamed Kermit Robinson for not getting his money back.
“The court did not order for [Kermit Robinson] to recover any rent or damages,” campaign spokesman Mike Lonergan said in an email. “There is a legal process for that and the landlord did not pursue it within the statute of limitations.”
While Lonergan is correct, blaming a man who is now 84 years old and was trying to care for his dying wife at the time is a bad look – and Walker pounced on that in a tweet.
“Shameful! I am sorry that Mr. Kermit was cheated by the Robinsons. People of character do not wait for a court order to do the right thing especially after this elderly gentleman won a civil judgment and evicted the Robinsons because they refused to pay him. All of this as Kermit’s wife was dying with cancer,” he wrote. “Now, Robinson’s response for not paying? Blame it on this 84-year-old man for not filing more legal documents … If Mark Robinson can’t handle his own finances, how will he handle ours? This is not the character of a true conservative.”
This wasn’t Walker’s first attack on Robinson’s financial problems, either.
A few weeks before his tweet about the eviction, Walker wrote that Robinson “knows a scam job when he sees one,” highlighting the lieutenant governor’s financial and legal issues and accusing him of “spending 25 years cheating people.”
Many Republicans have been less than thrilled by Walker’s attacks on Robinson. He has defended those attacks by saying that if he doesn’t do it now then Attorney General Josh Stein, the likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate, will make it an issue in next year’s general election – unless Republicans choose someone without the financial baggage that Robinson has.
“They say it’s all in the past,” Walker said of the Republicans angry that he highlighted Robinson’s legal history. “But would you rather learn about it now, or after the primary?”