GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker started his bid for the Republican nomination for North Carolina governor last spring pretty much with advice and consent.

Walker launched his campaign with counseling from National Public Affairs, a firm led by Bill Stepien and Tim Murghtaugh, the former campaign manager and one-time communications director, respectively, for former President Donald Trump – which continues in that role – but but when he didn’t have a campaign manager or significant funding.


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But in August, more than six months before the primary among now five hopefuls for the GOP nomination, Walker, a resident of Greensboro, has hired a campaign manager/sometimes spokesperson and raised more than $500,000 in the first few months of campaigning.

Former Rep. Mark Walker announces run for governor in Kernersville. (WGHP)
Former Rep. Mark Walker announces run for governor in Kernersville. (WGHP)

Jonathan Bridges, who like many campaign employees started his political career as a volunteer in college, recently was hired by a campaign that is trying to gain purchase by using Walker’s three terms in Congress and verified conservative chops as a more moderated voice in the race to succeed Gov. Roy Cooper.

“North Carolina is a purple, swing state,” said Bridges who had a consulting business before a friend recommended that he reach out to Walker. “We need a candidate who can challenge AG Josh Stein [the Democratic frontrunner] without alienating large groups of voters in the general election.

Jonathan Bridges is a new campaign official for Mark Walker’s race for governor. (BRIDGES)

“We’ve seen one candidate who has disparaged women, minorities, the Jewish community, and the LGBTQ+ community. Frankly, the Republican Party is better than that, and North Carolinians deserve a leader who will govern conservatively, while representing everyone.”

Bridges’ reference is to Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, considered the front-runner in the race, having earned the promised endorsement from former President Donald Trump (whom he in turn endorsed), and taken a solid lead in most early polls and raised about $2.2 million in the first half of the year.

But Robinson, serving in his first elected office after gaining fame by preaching to a mass of gun owners at a Greensboro City Council meeting in a social media video gone viral in 2018, has a long record of outrageous comments in speeches and on social media.

He and Walker are two of three men with Greensboro roots in the race – state Treasurer Dale Folwell is the other – and along with former state senator Andy Wells and former Blue Cross/Blue Shield executive Jesse Thomas.

Stein is the only Democrat in the race so far, and there are two Libertarians, Shannon Bray of Apex and Mike Ross of Gaston County.

It’s Robinson, though, who has been attacked frequently by both Folwell and Walker.

Chris Cooper of Western Carolina University

How those candidates differentiate themselves may not be so much about the issues, Chris Cooper, a professor at Western Carolina University and political expert and co-author of the Old North State Politics blog, told WGHP during a recent survey among elections experts about factors that could decide this race.

“I don’t think our current political climate allows much room for issues to drive elections,” Cooper said. “The days of elections serving as debating stages for citizens to learn where the candidates stand are over.

“These are mobilization elections, not persuasion elections. And Mark Robinson and Josh Stein’s positions on almost every current issue can be predicted by knowing nothing more than whether they have a D or an R next to their name.”

‘You need to meet Mark Walker’

Bridges said he grew up in Rocky Point in what he described as a single-parent household from a family that included “blue dog Democrats” and “one uncle that was MAGA before MAGA, and the rest of my family are apathetic about politics.” 

He had started his political consulting business after graduating from Campbell University and working in a fundraising role that was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said a conversation with a mentor about wanting to work with only one candidate and not a mixture during the 2023-24 cycle led to a suggestion.

“His response, “Man, you need to meet Mark Walker,’” Bridges said. 

“After meeting with the congressman I knew he was who I wanted to work for. As a person of faith, I also received confirmation several times that this was meant to be.  

“I walked into the sanctuary the morning of his announcement [at Triad Christian Academy in Kernersville on May 20]. I saw Congressman Walker moving chairs and helping to get the room ready. I was thinking to myself, shouldn’t he be prepping for his speech or shaking hands? 

“There are other moments where he would stop to help someone with an issue even though it’s not part of the campaign. As a manager it’s frustrating, but you realize, that’s servant leadership. This is the kind of leadership that we need in a governor.“

Future plans

Walker said he welcomed Bridges to join a campaign team that included long-time supporters from his three races for Congress.

Bridges touts Walker’s record of having closed “thousands of Veterans Affairs cases in the district, funding HBCUs, or working with former President Trump to push the largest tax code overhaul in the past 30 years,” saying Walker “puts results over rhetoric.

“Instead of making rousing speeches about what he’s going to do, he just does it. Experience matters when it comes to electing the chief executive of the 9th largest state with a $30 billion budget.” 

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Walker anticipates opening his campaign office in Greensboro on Sept. 1, and Bridges asks for anyone interested in donating or volunteering – as he did in college for Gov. Pat McCrory – to email him or visit

“This is not an easy race,” he said. “Every dollar, every door knock, every phone call matters. My message to voters is simple. For those who support Mr. Walker, we need you to join the team. For those who don’t know him or support the other candidates, all I ask is that you do your research on each candidate and at least take the time to meet Mr. Walker – ask him tough questions. Then make an informed decision. This election is too important to get it wrong or to not vote at all.” 

CORRECTION: This article was updated after Walker sent a message to clarify that NPA is continuing its role as a general consultant to the campaign.