Opinion: North Carolina’s fiery GOP candidate’s outrages will fuel an intense governor’s race

Opinion: North Carolina’s fiery GOP candidate’s outrages will fuel an intense governor’s race - Politics - News

The Intense and Unpalatable 2022 North Carolina Gubernatorial Race: A Battle Between Two Polarizing Candidates

The political landscape of North Carolina has long been characterized by fiercely contested elections. I’ve witnessed this firsthand, dating back to the infamous 1984 Senate race between conservative Senator Jesse Helms and Democratic challenger Jim Hunt. This year’s gubernatorial race between the state’s Lt. Governor Mark Robinson and Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein is poised to match that intensity, but for all the wrong reasons.

North Carolina voters face an election dilemma: a Republican candidate whose volatile social positions and overblown rhetoric may be too extreme for some Tar Heel State residents, versus a Democrat whose candidacy could be dragged down by an unpopular Democratic incumbent president.

With the recent reemergence of social issues in political discourse following Alabama’s controversial IVF decision, this year’s North Carolina gubernatorial race is shaping up to be a contentious performance that will likely center around the Republican candidate Robinson’s controversial past statements.

Robinson, 55, who would be the first Black governor of North Carolina, is a charismatic and passionate speaker with a strong following. He rose to prominence in 2018 after delivering an impassioned pro-gun rights speech at a city council meeting in Greensboro that went viral. A MAGA favorite, Robinson has received the endorsement of former President Trump.

The media’s fascination with Robinson’s fiery rhetoric is inevitable – controversy sells clicks. Among the issues that are likely to be raised during the campaign are his controversial remarks about the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, calling it a “communist plot,” and his desire to bring back HB2, the unpopular bathroom bill. His past comments on abortion and IVF are also likely to be a point of contention, particularly with women and moderate voters.

Robinson’s history with the issue of abortion is complicated: he once spoke in favor of a total ban on abortions, but more recently has opted to not discuss the matter publicly. He acknowledged in a 2012 Facebook post that he had paid for an abortion and later confirmed in a 2022 video that he and his wife had terminated a pregnancy years earlier – a decision he deeply regrets.

The controversy surrounding Robinson’s abortion stance is not the only issue that could hurt him with voters: his support for a bathroom bill similar to one defended by former Republican Governor Pat McCrory is also likely to be raised during the campaign. McCrory’s 2016 defeat in his reelection bid against then-Democratic challenger Roy Cooper, our current governor, has been attributed in large part to his support for the unpopular anti-LGBTQ measure.

Stein, 57, who would be the first Jewish governor of North Carolina, faces a tough challenge this November due to the way the presidential campaign is playing out. Polls show Trump leading Democratic incumbent Joe Biden comfortably in North Carolina, with Biden underwater on numerous issues. Tar Heel State voters overwhelmingly favor Trump on the economy, border control, and the fentanyl crisis, giving a significant boost to Robinson’s campaign.

As Election Day approaches, the Republican Governors Association and outside organizations are expected to invest significant resources in linking Stein to Biden to hurt his chances. Meanwhile, Stein will likely do his best to keep his distance from the president. His Website makes no mention of Biden, and he was not seen with either the President or Vice President Kamala Harris during their recent visits to North Carolina.

Running from Biden for the entire duration of the campaign season will be no easy feat, especially given the unpopularity of the president in North Carolina. As proven by the 2004 Senate race between Burr and Erskine Bowles, linking a Democratic candidate to an unpopular figure can be a powerful campaign strategy. In that race, we went to great lengths to tie Bowles to former President Bill Clinton – a considerably less unpopular figure at the time. Burr’s final campaign ad featured footage of Bowles and Clinton together in the White House and may have been the deciding factor that sealed the race.

North Carolina’s status as a battleground state is irrefutable: our governors have tended to be Democrats, and our senators, Republicans. The third fastest-growing state by population, with much of the most explosive growth taking place in Mecklenburg and Wake Counties (home to Charlotte and Raleigh, respectively), makes predicting election outcomes impossible.

In conclusion, the 2022 North Carolina gubernatorial race is shaping up to be an intense and unpalatable performance between two polarizing candidates. The media attention that this race will undoubtedly receive can only mean one thing: get ready for a rollercoaster ride, North Carolina.