The next governor of N.C. may be Black, but what if it isn’t Mark Robinson?By Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / June 2, 2023
The 2024 Republican primary for North Carolina governor is set now, as former 6th District Congressman Mark Walker recently announced his bid, joining state Treasurer Dale Folwell and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.By all accounts, Robinson, the fiery Black Republican known for his divisive oratory and derisive commentary, is leading in the polls to win the GOP primary next Spring, and ultimately, the general election in November 2024, to become North Carolina’s first African American elected governor in its history.
Right now, there does not seem to be anything, nor anyone, to stand in the way of that probability. Republicans are trying to remove as many rhetorical obstacles as possible, demoting two GOP House members from leadership last week for racist comments they publicly made about Black Democratic colleagues. Now the party can maintain that it doesn’t tolerate racism when its leading candidate for governor is Black.
The Democrats’ sole announced candidate for governor in 2024, current state Attorney General Josh Stein, announced his candidacy last January in an effort to clear the decks of any possible competition going forward.
But let’s be honest – can Josh Stein really defeat Mark Robinson?
That question opens several political realities.If Stein has any chance of defeating Robinson, he will need a strong Black voter turnout statewide. While Robinson will get some Black voter support just on the basis of his historic candidacy, Stein is most likely not going to get enough needed to withstand a strong White/Black rural Republican turnout for Robinson.
If tea leaves are strong indicators of future election results, they’re saying that Josh Stein is simply not strong enough in the Black community to generate the high level of counter-excitement needed to defeat Black Republican Mark Robinson.
So what Democrat besides Josh Stein is capable of beating perhaps the most popular, if not infamous, Republican in the state today?
If you think about it, Mark Robinson has done us all a favor.
By declaring his candidacy for governor, Robinson has set the stage for a Black Democrat, and ONLY a Black Democrat, to successfully oppose him. And not just any Black Democrat, but one who is everything that Mark Robinson isn’t.
A Black Democrat who has a solid record of legislative or judicial advocacy on the issues most important to North Carolina families. A Black Democrat who has served in elective office and has a long record of getting things done. A Black Democrat who knows how to constructively talk to people about building their communities.
A Black Democrat whose very personal history speaks to the values that North Carolina families hold dear.
- The bench of qualified Black Democrats for governor, compared to Robinson, could be long, and deep, and include:
- Sen. Dan Blue (Wake)
- Sen. Gladys Robinson (Guilford)
- Assoc. Justice Mike Morgan
- Rep. Rosa Gill (Wake)
- Rep. Garland Pierce (Hoke, Scotland)
- Rep. Robert T. Reives II (Chatham, Randolph)
Look into the histories of any one of these distinguished public servants. Collectively, they represent all areas of North Carolina, and could gain strong support from all areas. These Black Democrats are leaders. They’ve earned the right to lead. They know how to respect all the people of North Carolina.
Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue was the first and only African American speaker of the N.C. House.
Rep. Rosa Gill was the chair of the Wake County Board of Education.
Associate Justice Michael Morgan, who recently announced he will not be running for reelection in 2024, told the Associated Press he’s still considering his future options.Rep. Robert Reives is displaying strong leadership as the state House Democratic leader in the N.C. General Assembly.
Sen. Gladys Robinson is a longtime advocate for health and education issues in the state Senate.
Rep. Garland Pierce is a former chair of the N.C. Black Legislative Caucus, and is well-versed in addressing issues affecting rural communities.
For the record, none of these distinguished Black Democrats have announced any plans or intention to run for N.C. governor in 2024, and for all intent and purposes, have no idea their names are being raised as possible go-to candidates should Democrats agree with the premise of this analysis.
But the point can’t be made any louder than it is here – it is going to take a solid Black Democratic candidate to go toe-to-toe with Black Republican Mark Robinson.
Now is anyone saying that Josh Stein should step aside for any one of these Black Democrats to claim the mantle of N.C. Democratic Party standard-bearer in 2024? Certainly not. Stein has every right to put forth his candidacy in a Democratic primary next year, and may the best Democrat win.
But he would have to prove to the party, and more importantly to the base of the Democratic Party – Black voters – that he could excite that base, and beat Republican Mark Robinson to become the next governor of North Carolina. From what we’ve seen, brandishing his legal credentials will not get Stein past first base with most Black voters – urban or rural.
At least one of the six Black Democrats named above can meet the challenge if any one of them stepped forward to enter the 2024 Democratic primary.
If that happened, the excitement could grip the African American community, compelling a much needed voter turnout for 2024 that could impact other races on the ballot, and blunt the power of Republican Mark Robinson on the ballot.
So who should it be, and when will he or she step forward?
Time will tell.