GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson has been touting on social media this week an endorsement by U.S. Sen. Ted Budd in his race for the Republican nomination for governor in 2024.
The curious factor is that none of this is new: Budd endorsed Robinson formally in April in a video played just before Robinson spoke during his campaign launch at Ace Speedway in Alamance County.
Robinson is joined in the race for governor by state Treasurer Dale Folwell, former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, former state senator Andy Wells and as of Wednesday former healthcare executive Jesse Thomas.
Budd’s endorsement of Robinson should not be a surprise, because Robinson wholeheartedly endorsed Budd last year in his race for the Senate. And both men are ardent backers of former President Donald Trump. Trump also has pledged his support for Robinson.
Numerous GOP leaders appeared at Robinson’s announcement, although not all of them did so as a firm endorsement of his candidacy. Budd’s words were official, Jonathan Felts, his political adviser, told WGHP.
“Ted has the privilege of knowing and working with most of the Republicans running and knows they’re good folks who’d all make a better governor than Professional Politician Josh Stein,” Felts said. “But Ted believes Mark Robinson is the candidate whom voters can best trust to always be fighting for the working families of North Carolina.”
Robinson, a resident of Greensboro and the highest-ranking elected Republican in North Carolina, has been considered the front-runner in the race, having earned Trump’s endorsement, taken a solid lead in most polls and raised about $2.2 million in the first half of the year, which is far more than any competitor.
Crossing the line?
One of the candidates to replace Robinson as lieutenant governor, Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page, entered into dubious territory by potentially mixing his job and his campaign.
Page, one of seven confirmed Republican candidates, announced Friday he is against the expansion of casinos in the state that is being considered by the General Assembly, including one targeted for Page’s home county.
Many Republicans – a GOP poll says 53% of likely voters – oppose the expansion, and Page announced he would attend a rally Friday night in Nash County, speak out against the concept and then be available for interviews.
The only problem is that the announcement of Page’s apparent campaign appearance was that it was distributed by the sheriff’s public information officer – Lt. Kevin Suthard – on the office’s official email, which would appear to violate state and federal law. Most elected leaders have very specific silos for their campaigns.
“He’s playing in a gray area for sure,” said political science professor and elections expert Chris Cooper of Western Carolina University. “I’ll leave the specifics of whether this crosses the line to others, but it’s a curious decision to send this from a PIO who is paid by tax dollars when he could have just as easily sent it from his campaign and avoided all questions.
“Sheriffs have first amendment rights and he can speak on any issue of public policy he wants to. But it’s also important to separate his campaign communications from his communications as Sheriff — just like it would be for any elected offices who’s running for office.”
Said Cooper’s blog partner, Catawba College Professor Michael Bitzer: “This is a fine, fine line. While he doesn’t necessarily reference his campaign, he is making it public on his stance and that will feed into the campaign. Of course, everything is now political in terms of what folks are doing, but the blurring of bureaucratic resources supported by taxpayer funds with campaigning and electioneering is a cause for public concern.”
Cotham gets national attention
When NC Democratic Chair Anderson Clayton said recently that NC Rep. Tricia Cotham’s switch from Democrat to Republican “angered this country,” she probably didn’t know that The New York Times was about to take a deep dive into the move that shifted political power in North Carolina to the GOP. And we don’t mean the takeover of the NC Supreme Court, although that was significant.
Politicians switch parties all the time. It’s not typical that they do so in the middle of a legislative session in which that single move guarantees that Republicans can control every law over the veto of the governor and act with seeming sovereignty.
The piece delves deeply into how Cotham was “counseled” by Republican leaders and factors that she says motivated her switch. It also describes her transformation from a person who staunchly defended reproductive rights to one who voted to tighten significantly the state’s access to abortion.
“Never in my life did I think that one person could have that kind of impact, that will affect the lives of thousands of people for years to come,” Ann Newman, a Democratic activist in Cotham’s district, told the Times.
Why we are divided
Gallup recently released a poll that examined 20-year partisan changes in attitudes on 24 key subjects and the biggest gaps on those topics.
For instance, 85% of Democrats think the government should ensure health care for all, but only 30% of Republicans agreed, meaning a 55-percentage-point fissure. There was a similar gap in protecting the environment being a priority over energy development.
Nearly 6 in 10 Democrats feel that “abortion should be legal under any circumstance,” compared to 12% of Republicans. There was a 17-point gap in satisfaction with race relations, with 40% of Republicans being OK. More Dems (82%) than Republicans (63%) are OK with sex between unmarried partners, which was nearly identical to those OK with having children out of wedlock. Democrats (88%) are far more “morally” OK with divorce than Republicans (69%).
- Folwell on his Twitter feed Friday posted a list touting his accomplishments in two terms as state treasurer. “For most public officials, election night is the biggest accomplishment of their career. They’re PINOs: Politicians In Name Only,” Folwell wrote. “Since being elected Treasurer in 2016, I’ve spent every day fighting to save lives, minds & money for citizens from Murphy to Manteo. I’ll continue to do that as your next governor.”
- Walker, an ordained Baptist minister, was one of the conservative voices to weigh in with a comment after the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team, which has several outspoken members, lost in the round of 16 during the women’s World Cup in New Zealand. Many Republicans – including Trump – and conservative media voices appeared to celebrate the defeat. Walker was not as biting, but he posted his Twitter – now X – feed: “In the future, I hope to cheer for a team proud to represent America.”
- Stein’s campaign gouged Robinson for his opposition to Medicaid expansion, which the General Assembly overwhelmingly approved but awaits a final budget before it is fully implemented. Stein noted the closure of rural hospitals.
- Robinson’s campaign announced that on Monday morning he will be in Greensboro to tour the International Civil Rights Museum with cofounder Earl Jones and sometimes local politician Jim Kee. For years Robinson has lambasted the civil rights movement and Greensboro’s place in its history.
- At the same time, Democrats in the state House who represent Guilford and Forsyth counties will gather with parents and teachers for a press conference at Guilford County Democratic headquarters on Meadowview Road. Democrats have been complaining about the absence of a state budget and funding for education with schools resuming on Aug. 28. “Every day the budget isn’t passed is another day that the Republicans are wasting taxpayer money, and our teachers aren’t receiving the pay they deserve,” Clayton said in a release.
- 8th Congressional District Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte) has been an official candidate for state attorney general for a week, but he has picked up a slew of endorsements. Two of his Republican colleagues in the House, Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert, fellow members of the Freedom Caucus, backed Bishop on social media posts, and he has been backed by The Republican Attorneys General Association and the Club for Growth, the super PAC that helped make Budd famous.
- About 120 residents gathered Monday at a church in High Point for a town hall meeting sponsored by #UniteNC, one of a series of such meetings. About 65 attended in Rockingham County on Aug. 2. State Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Greensboro), and state Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-High Point) were among the legislators who participated. There was an event scheduled for Gibsonville on Aug. 8.
- U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) says the EPA is going too far with its requirement under the Clean Air Act that fossil fuel energy plants eliminate or capture their carbon emissions. He says about 60% of electricity comes from those plants and that the policy will lead to “a crisis in electricity supply that will dwarf the regional outages that we have seen in California, Texas, and New England in recent years.”
- Remove Richard Evans’ name from the list of candidates who will vie for mayor of Walkertown. The Forsyth County Board of Elections disqualified Evans this week because of a question about his residence. Kenneth R. Davis and David Long Jr. will face off on Nov. 7.