Is North Carolina Set to Emulate Florida's Approach under Ron DeSantis?
Mark Robinson, the leading Republican candidate for governor in North Carolina, has a history of sharing sexist, homophobic, and transphobic views, as well as trivializing assault. Already with a veto-proof GOP majority in the state legislature, North Carolina may be poised to lose its purple state cred.
Mark Robinson, the Republican candidate for governor in North Carolina, has a troubling history of expressing sexist, homophobic, and transphobic views, as well as downplaying the seriousness of assault. With the state already having a veto-proof GOP majority in the legislature, North Carolina's reputation as a purple state may be at risk.
The current Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, will be leaving office next year due to term limits, and Republicans are eager to take his place. Mark Robinson, the controversial lieutenant governor of the state, has gained attention for his past remarks that are homophobic and antisemitic. He has also taken extreme positions on reproductive rights and recently endorsed Donald Trump for president. The upcoming gubernatorial race in 2024 is expected to be one of the most expensive state-level races, with Robinson likely facing off against the Democrats' top choice, state attorney general Josh Stein. Robinson is currently leading the Republican primary against Dale Folwell and Mark Walker. If elected, North Carolina could become a right-wing stronghold similar to Ron DeSantis's Florida.
Robinson's problematic behavior extends to his social media posts, where he has made light of domestic violence and sexual assault. In one Facebook post from 2017, he questioned whether it should still be considered domestic violence if someone beats their spouse at a mall. He also made insensitive comments about violence against transgender individuals. Additionally, Robinson has targeted feminism, calling it a creation of the devil and claiming that it destroys families. He has made derogatory remarks about feminists and women who breastfeed in public. These posts, shared with Vanity Fair by the liberal PAC American Bridge, reveal a pattern of disrespect and insensitivity towards marginalized groups. The Robinson campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Robinson gained prominence in 2018 after a video of him defending gun rights went viral on YouTube. His first political campaign was for lieutenant governor in 2020, during which he faced criticism for his past comments but embraced the controversy as part of his brand. However, his controversial statements are now drawing renewed scrutiny from both Democrats and Republicans, who are concerned that he may alienate moderate voters. Democrats are hoping that Robinson's campaign will resemble the failed bid of far-right candidate Doug Mastriano for governor in Pennsylvania.
The governor's race is likely to revolve around issues of gender and LGBTQ+ rights. In his campaign launch video, Josh Stein positioned himself as a defender against bigotry and division, using footage of Robinson's remarks about homosexuality and abortion. Stein emphasized the importance of protecting the rights and dignity of all North Carolinians. Robinson's comments may have a negative impact on his chances in the general election, especially considering the state's history of debates over LGBTQ+ rights and police brutality.
North Carolina Democrats have already experienced the consequences of Republican dominance in the state legislature. With a veto-proof majority, Republicans have overridden multiple vetoes by Governor Cooper, passing bills that could harm wetlands protections and restrict political affiliation questions in job interviews. They have also enacted a 12-week abortion ban against Cooper's wishes. These actions serve as a warning of what could happen if Robinson becomes governor.
The North Carolina governor's race is shaping up to be a battleground for the key issues that will define the 2024 election cycle. As a purple-ish state that was narrowly won by Joe Biden in 2020, North Carolina will likely be closely watched in the upcoming presidential election. Early polling shows Robinson with a slight lead over Stein, indicating that the race will be highly competitive. Democrats are aware of the challenges they face but remain determined to prevent Robinson's divisive views from gaining further influence in the state.