GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – We don’t know whether Greensboro Republican Mark Walker is getting a tune-up for his bus to make a run at the 2024 governor’s race, but it sounds like he’s kicking the tires a little more fervently.
Walker told WGHP last fall that “we’ll see” about the governor’s race. He was helping with statewide judicial races at the time, he said. But he said he still had the bus he had used for thousands of miles while crisscrossing North Carolina.
You may recall that more than a year ago Walker unveiled that bus to announce he would continue his bid to win the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat from which Richard Burr was retiring. Walker had been asked by former President Donald Trump to leave the race and perhaps run for Congress again, but he said God had called him to run for the Senate.
We don’t know what God is whispering to Walker about joining the field to succeed Gov. Roy Cooper, whose second term ends in 2024. He didn’t respond to an email from WGHP to follow up about his possible candidacy.
But he confirmed to The Assembly that he was having meetings to discuss a possible run, and two political insiders who had worked with Walker in his successful races to represent the 6th Congressional District in 2014, 2016 and 2018 told The Assembly that Walker has been talking to Republican governors and others about how he might enter the race.
But whither Robinson?
The key issue to all of this, of course, is the likely candidacy of the state’s highest-ranking elected Republican, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson of Greensboro.
Robinson hasn’t entered the race, but he has talked like he’s in the race, raised money for the race and released a memoir to explain his views. He also has been backed by Trump and dominated in every poll that has been mentioned.
A businessman from Greensboro who attended UNC Greensboro, Robinson emerged from obscurity after he addressed the Greensboro City Council in 2018 about gun rights. He has spoken at many national rallies, including CPAC, and is known for being outspoken on people and culture issues.
But winning the lieutenant governor’s race in 2020, by 3.2 percentage points over Democrat Yvonne Lewis Holley, was his first foray into politics. And although Robinson earned 32.5% to beat eight others in that GOP primary, some question whether he has the creds to win a statewide race and whether Trump’s support is a positive. You sure don’t ever doubt where Robinson stands on an issue, and sometimes it’s not well-received.
‘A lot of doubt’
Kyle Van Zandt, who managed Walker’s defeat of Phil Berger Jr. to earn the House seat in 2014, said as much to The Assembly.
“There’s a lot of doubt that Robinson can deliver a win in the general election,” Van Zandt said. “A lot of people are looking for other viable candidates for this. Walker has a proven track record of standing firm in his principles and not alienating people who may not agree with him.”
Like Walker, Robinson’s political adviser, Conrad Pogorzelski did not respond last month to an email from WGHP asking about when Robinson might announce his candidacy, but he told the Assembly that anyone questioning Robinson’s candidacy “clearly hasn’t looked at the numbers.”
About the polls
Internal Republican polling is suggesting Robinson would dominate any challenger, polling 50 percentage points ahead of Walker head-to-head. He’s also 39% ahead of McCrory, whose candidacy has not been speculated, and 54% ahead of NC Treasurer Dale Folwell of Winston-Salem, who has said he is considering a run.
WGHP conducted a straw poll of elected officials and insiders last fall and included Walker as a possible candidate. He was third behind Robinson and Folwell.
A poll last fall by left-leaning Carolina Forward showed Robinson as the clear preference (54% of the total). U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, a former speaker of the state House, followed with 20%, and Folwell received 4%. There were 5% who chose someone else and 17% unsure, but Walker wasn’t included.
Pogorzelski pointed out some of those polls have suggested that Robinson would be favored to beat the current Democratic front-runner, Attorney General Josh Stein.
He’s on the list
When all this clears up might take months and certainly would take dollars. The primary date for 2024 is not scheduled, and that can be fluid, based on almost assured redistricting by the General Assembly and potential legal challenges that could affect the calendar.
In the meantime, political science professor and Old North State politics blogger Michael Bitzer of Catawba University has added Walker to the list of speculated candidates for governor on the database he updates regularly based on public comments. Six of the seven names on that list – all but Stein – are under the “Speculation” heading, which for now is as certain as anything gets.
Bitzer does list three Democrats as “Confirmed” among under nine names for lieutenant governor (none of them Robinson). Delmonte Crawford, Chris Rey and Raymond E. Smith are running.
Upcoming Dobson election
In-person early voting begins next Thursday in a special election among three candidates for two seats on the town of Dobson’s commission. Election day is March 7.
The NC Board of Elections unanimously ordered a special election and recommended a hearing to consider the removal of two members of the Surry County Board of Elections after problems at the poll last fall.
A poll worker had told at least one voter that one of the four candidates for the two seats had deceased. The third-place vote-getter, John Jonczak, lost by eight votes to second-place finisher Walter White. Jonczak protested the outcome because of that conversation, as did one voter.
Both Jonczak and White, along with J. Wayne Atkins, are on the ballot.
Here are snippets of what some of the elected leaders in NC had to say about President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address:
- Tillis: “I’ve demonstrated that I’m willing to work with any President on solutions that are good for North Carolina. But I will also oppose any President when the policies they put forward are bad for North Carolina.”
- 9th District Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Southern Pines), chair of the NRCC: “The most important part of the President’s speech is what he didn’t say: no serious plan to tackle spending and inflation, fix the border crisis, bring down crime, or stand up to China.”
- 12th District Rep. Alma Adams (D-Charlotte), a Greensboro native: “I will continue to work with President Biden to build an economy that works for everyone, I will work with Republicans who want to help move our country forward.”
- A federal appeals court said there was no basis for charging Stein with breaking a campaign law involving a false ad, and now Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman announced her office has closed its investigation. Stein had argued that the 1931 state law his campaign supposedly violated was unconstitutional.
- 6th District Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) was elected vice ranking member – the second highest Democrat – on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She also is on various subcommittees. “The Foreign Affairs Committee plays a vital role in ensuring that the United States remains a global leader as we work to strengthen democracy worldwide, promote diplomacy, and maintain the global order,” Manning said in a statement released by her staff.