RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the Republican front-runner in the 2024 election for governor, is attacking the record of the lone Democrat in the field, Josh Stein, for contradicting himself about election security – particularly in his opposition to the state’s new voter ID law – but not addressing questions about some of his own positions on the topic.
In a statement released Thursday by his campaign, Robinson pointed to recent comments made by Stein, the state’s attorney general, about his role in defending the state’s voter ID requirement. The lieutenant governor criticized Stein’s stance as being inconsistent with his prior positions on the topic of election security – even Russian interference into the 2020 presidential election.
Stein in an interview this past week with WFAE-FM (90.7) had taken the familiar position to those who oppose the requirement to show a photo ID at the polls as being “unjustified,” the release said. “Voter integrity has been drummed up,” Stein said in part.
You may recall that the NC Supreme Court in December had struck down a constitutional amendment passed in 2018 to create voter ID, affirming a lower-court ruling that found that the General Assembly’s law creating that amendment was illegal based on racial issues raised when a similar measure passed by lawmakers was rejected by federal courts in 2016.
But in a request of the General Assembly, the NC Supreme Court, now for the first time controlled by a 5-2 Republican majority, in April reversed that decision and remanded the case to the lower court.
Voter ID – requiring voters to identify themselves before submitting a ballot, a practice employed in 35 states – will go into effect this fall with municipal elections. The NCBE has approved various options for types of IDs, including free IDs from the state, and created paths to vote provisionally. There also are exceptions.
And because he is the attorney general, Stein has been required to defend the law in a federal suit before the 2020 election. That led to his comments to WFAE.
“It was a tough decision,” Stein said in the interview. “As a matter of policy, it was unjustified. It was a solution in search of a problem. Voter integrity has been drummed up. They are passing laws to make it harder for American citizens to participate in democracy. But it was constitutional.
“And that proves my point — I don’t pick and choose based on my personal preferences.”
The courts had struck down that voter ID law passed by the General Assembly in 2013 because it unconstitutionally attacked Black voters “with surgical precision.” Stein, then a state senator, had voted against that law, Robinson’s campaign noted.
Robinson’s release also pointed out that Stein had joined other attorneys general in expressing concern about election integrity during the investigation into Russia’s efforts to disrupt the 2016 election. And the release hit Stein for asking Congress “to take action to protect the integrity of all upcoming elections by providing additional election security grants to states and localities,” which is where Robinson sees a contradiction.
“Extreme liberals like Josh Stein want elections to be as unsecure as our southern border plagued by Joe Biden’s massive humanitarian crisis or the streets of major cities run by their fellow Defund-the-Police Democrats,” Robinson said. “After years of pandering to the far-left of the Democrat Party by pushing the now-debunked Russia hoax, Stein is reversing himself on election integrity yet again in another bid for higher office.
“North Carolinians need a leader they can trust, not a career politician who will flip-flop to placate his liberal D.C. allies.”
Robinson and Trump
Robinson, a resident of Guilford County and the highest-ranking elected Republican in North Carolina, has earned the promised endorsement from former President Donald Trump (whom he in turn endorsed), taken a solid lead in most polls and raised about $2.2 million in the first half of the year.
He is facing three GOP challengers for the nomination – NC Treasurer Dale Folwell, former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker and former state Sen. Andy Wells – along with two Libertarians, former candidate Shannon Bray and business owner Mike Ross.
Elections experts told WGHP they don’t think that defending democracy will be a key to determining who wins in 2024, but Robinson focused this message on Stein, whose spokesperson, in turn, questioned what the Robinson-Trump relationship says about election integrity.
“North Carolinians get it — they know they shouldn’t listen to attacks on voting and elections from someone who perpetuates false claims about the 2020 election and surrounds himself with election deniers and conspiracy theorists,” Kate Frauenfelder, spokesperson for Josh Stein’s campaign, said in response to an emailed question from WGHP. “Does he even accept that Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president of the United States? Attorney General Stein has and always will be a fierce defender of our fundamental right to vote.”
The record on that question
Trump, whom Robinson supported even before his recent endorsement, has created chaos concerning election security following the 2020 election he lost to President Biden when his supporters descended upon the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, where they assaulted police, broke down barriers and illegally sought to disrupt the transfer of power. Hundreds have been charged, indicted and convicted for their efforts that day.
Trump has been notified that he is a target of Special Counsel Jack Smith’s probe on behalf of the Department of Justice into various charges related to his role that day. He also is subject to a grand jury investigation in Georgia for election interference.
Still, Robinson apparently hasn’t addressed Trump’s election and whether he believes the outcome was legitimate.
In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Coalition in 2022, he said, “I don’t care what you tell me, 83 thousand [sic] people did not vote for Joe Biden. I don’t think 83 million people know who Joe Biden is. Joe Biden doesn’t know who Joe Biden is.”
In May, Robinson appeared at a rally in Georgia that was headlined by various election deniers, and he is on the program in August for disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s “ReAwaken America” rally, which features numerous conspiracy theorists and election deniers.
When asked if Robinson believed that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, a spokesperson for his campaign shared two pieces of video from when Robinson testified in April 2021 during a contentious hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, neither of which mentioned Trump or the 2020 election per se. The campaign didn’t respond to a follow-up question about Robinson’s view on Trump.
‘Insane … insulting’
In his remarks to the committee, which was reviewing election integrity in the wake of controversial election laws being passed in Georgia that Democrats said created limits on access, Robinson didn’t address Trump but further restated his commitment to voter ID and called the idea that a photo ID requirement would be an inhibitor to Black voters “preposterous.”
“The notion that Black people must be protected from a free ID to secure their votes is not just insane, it is insulting,” Robinson said. “It has nothing to do with justice.”
He later reiterated what he saw as the Republicans’ position on this issue, which he said wasn’t about seizing power.
“We want to have the best election system in the world,” he said. “We need to modernize our election system and stop playing these games based on race … stop using me as a Black man as your pawn. I’m sick of it.”