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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Justice Mike Morgan “Considering” 2024 Run for N.C. Governor

By Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / July 6, 2023

Michael R. Morgan

The 2024 race for N.C. governor has just become more interesting.

Michael R. Morgan, also known as “Mike” Morgan, one of two African American Democratic justices on the N.C. Supreme Court, is considering a run to become the state’s next governor after he steps down from the bench in coming months, according to the N.C. Insider state news service.

Gov. Roy Cooper, who cannot run for a third term, would appoint someone to serve out the rest of Morgan’s term should he step down before it officially ends in 2024.

If Justice Morgan were to win the 2024 Democratic gubernatorial primary, he would likely face Black conservative Republican, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, in the general election, setting up an historic battle for the Governor’s Mansion.

In his first state office race in 2016, Morgan defeated a Republican judicial incumbent and won his N.C. High Court seat by 2,157,927 votes, taking a majority of North Carolina counties, so he knows how to run in a statewide campaign.

He is one of several seasoned, well-qualified Black Democratic possible candidates for governor who could energize Black Democratic voters in 2024.

In a June 28th phone interview with the N.C. Insider, the contents of which have been confirmed for this report, Justice Morgan, 67, said that when his term expires next year, he may very well enter the Democratic primary to challenge previously announced 2024 gubernatorial candidate state Attorney General Josh Stein.

Stein, who grew up in Charlotte and Chapel Hill, announced his candidacy early last January in hopes that no other Democrat would enter the race. Serving his second term as state Attorney General, Stein has strong support with White Democratic progressives, particularly those who are against the Republican-led legislature’s recent 12-week abortion restrictions.

Despite that support, Justice Morgan told the N.C. Insider that “…many inside North Carolina’s Democratic circles are calling on him to run in next year’s primary election.”

“I’ve been asked, quite frankly, to look at the race for governor,” Morgan said. “And while I highly respect the declared candidate (Stein) for the Democratic nomination for governor, I feel inclined to respect the calls that I’m getting.”

Morgan, who has been an associate justice of the state Supreme Court for the past seven years, continued that his final decision on whether to run or not would be based on what kind of support he can muster for a campaign.

“And, of course, whether I’d be able to raise the requisite funds in the requisite time to be a formidable candidate,” he said.

Morgan acknowledged that based on the support he hopes to get, his candidacy would make a difference.

“I believe it would enhance the chances of the Democrats,” he told the N.C. Insider. “I believe that should I enter the race I would be a strong voice that would be in a position to not only be the best qualified for the position, but I would be in the best position to defeat the current leading Republican candidate. I would be able to concentrate on matters and articulate matters in a way that would be more convincing and more persuasive, to have the Democrats enjoy victory and to maintain the governor position.”

And if he were successful in a primary run against Stein, Justice Morgan made clear that he’s under no illusions as to who the Republican’s likely candidate, Mark Robinson, is, and the kind of controversial, right-wing rhetoric many say he represents.

“There are some disturbing voices that want to lead our state in a direction that’s backward, downward and wayward,” Morgan said. “…If I would decide to run, it would strengthen our party going forward to the 2024 race and it would strengthen our ability to keep the governorship in a responsible leader’s hands.”

There is still plenty of time for other Democrats to join the 2024 gubernatorial race, so anything can happen between now and the March 5, 2024 primary. In the meantime, Justice Morgan will have to retire from the state Supreme Court, put together a campaign team, and begin raising money for both a primary run, and possible November 2024 general election bid.

Also in that time, Morgan would have to decide how he would campaign against fellow Democrat Stein. Both men are accomplished attorneys who know how to frame effective legal arguments. But a Democratic primary would call on Morgan and Stein to attempt to fire up the Democratic base, meaning that they would have to learn how to perform outside of the legal setting, and be able speak plainly about the issues North Carolinians care about the most.

Supporters of Stein feel he can speak to the concerns women across the state have regarding their loss of abortion rights at the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court and the N.C. General Assembly. Those supporters predict that women will drive the 2024 elections.

Justice Morgan may be able to tap into the tremendous outrage over last week’s consequential U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down affirmative action in college admissions, in addition to recent controversial decisions by the Republican-led N.C. Supreme Court, and the N.C. General Assembly’s restrictions on voting rights.

Both men could address standard concerns about the rising cost of living, the need for affordable housing and health care, and other standard campaign issues primary voters would care about.

The eldest of five children, Justice Morgan is a native of New Bern in Eastern North Carolina, where his late father, Leander “Lee” Morgan Sr. – New Bern’s first Black mayor – was elected three times. His mother, Barbara Rivers Morgan, was the first African American woman elected to the merged New Bern – Craven County School Board.

With a strong personal and professional history of achievement, Justice Morgan is an alumnus of Duke University and North Carolina Central University School of Law, and has served as an administrative law judge, a District Court judge in Wake County, and a Superior Court judge, before his Supreme Court election in 2016.
In that election, then Superior Court Judge Morgan defeated 16-year Republican Associate Justice Robert Edmunds with more than 54 percent of the statewide vote, giving the seven-member state Supreme Court a Democratic majority for the first time since the 1998 elections.

“With the incredibly good fortune to be the only person ever in N.C. to serve in four different judgeships over my 34 years of judicial service, I shall not seek to be reelected in 2024 as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina,” Justice Morgan said in a statement in May.

If Morgan were to succeed in winning the 2024 Democratic primary, he would likely face the most popular Republican gubernatorial candidate currently in Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. But Robinson will have to defeat two primary opponents first in state Treasurer Dale Folwell, and former Sixth District Congressman Mark Walker.

Robinson, a recent graduate of UNC-Greensboro, and best known for his fiery MAGA, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-abortion rights rhetoric, recently endorsed former Pres. Donald Trump for reelection. In turn, Trump has endorsed his candidacy, giving Robinson entree to Trump’s MAGA supporters across the state.




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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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