RALEIGH — On Oct. 10, North Carolina Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor in 2024 Josh Stein held a gubernatorial campaign kick-off rally in Raleigh.
The rally, held in the C.C. Spaulding Gymnasium at Shaw University, was much smaller than that of his likely Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, with around a hundred people in attendance, including media. Robinson’s kick-off was held in Alamance County in April and drew over 1,000 people despite strong storms moving through the area at the time.
Robinson, who is seeking to become the state’s first black governor, is joined in the Republican side of the race by former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, current State Treasurer Dale Folwell, former state Sen. Andy Wells and retired healthcare executive Jesse Thomas.
The Shaw University Marching Band was featured at the onset of Stein’s event followed by welcoming remarks given by Shaw University President Dr. Paulette Dillard.
Dillard told attendees she was thrilled Stein was kicking off his campaign at her institution, which she said is “all about the democratic process.”
State Sen. Natalie Murdock (D-Durham) also gave some remarks before introducing Gov. Roy Cooper. Prior to serving in the state senate, Murdock worked under Stein at the North Carolina Department of Justice as a deputy director of communications.
“It is my pleasure to stand here today and support our future governor, Josh Stein,” Murdock said. She later went on to say things are “really, really rough in Raleigh” and that the state needs to elect a governor who will keep his veto pen “on the ready.”
Murdock turned the microphone over to Cooper, who spoke for around eight minutes and billed Stein as an example of a leader with a track record of protecting consumers. The governor also mentioned Stein’s activities as attorney general in security opioid settlements and battling scammers and robocallers.
Just this past August, Stein’s campaign was found to have lost over $50,000 from a “sophisticated scam” that targeted a campaign vendor.
“I’ve thought about it a lot. We need a person with integrity and grit,” said Cooper in his remarks about Stein. “We need a person who is ready to work hard to get things done and put bipartisan coalitions together to make things happen.”
Cooper introduced Stein as someone who will make North Carolina “stronger than ever.”
Stein took the stage and began by thanking his family, and his supporters, and singling out N.C. Association of Educators President Tamika Walker Kelly. Overall, Stein’s remarks lasted around 18 minutes, covering a wide range of topics from Medicaid Expansion to raising teacher pay to “the national average.”
Stein talked about growing up in North Carolina from the “remarkable natural beauty from the Blue Ridge Mountains” and “to some of the finest educational institutions in the world, including. Shaw University.”
Stein said the state is their home and that he and his wife have talked about their kids and their futures.
“And I know we are not the only ones who pray that our children and grandchildren also want to call it home,” said Stein. “But our home is under assault. Right-wing politicians are taking a sledgehammer to its foundation.”
“Just look at what the Republican supermajority legislature did this year,” Stein said. “They held Medicaid Expansion hostage for months for casinos; squandering billions of dollars and putting people’s lives at risk. They passed dangerous new restrictions on a woman’s reproductive freedom, stripping them of making their own decisions about their own bodies, their own feelings, and their own futures.”
Stein took aim at the historic state expansion of school choice to all families in the state by claiming Republicans at the legislature “defunded our schools” and disrespected educators.
“And this month, they’re right back in doing what they did during the past 12 years – gerrymandering legislative districts to cling to power,” said Stein. “But I’ve got news. Next year, you and I are going to stop them because good organizing can beat a bad gerrymander.”
“Know this: I Will always stand up against the special interests and for the people of North Carolina,” Stein said after describing some of his leadership style and accomplishments as attorney general such as attempting to reduce the “16,000” untested rape kits that were “sitting on a shelf with the state” that he said he inherited when took office.
When Stein took office in 2017, the backlog was over 15,000 and gave North Carolina the dubious distinction of being number one in the country for untested kits. Five years later, as of March 2023, the dashboard tracking the rape kit backlog stood at 16,223.
Turning to voting, Stein said he fought for voting rights while Republicans gerrymandered and “slashed my budget by $10 million dollars.”
“Republicans at the General Assembly engaged in partisan gerrymandering to discriminate against voters based on their political beliefs,” said Stein. “And in the words of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, they targeted black voters with wicked, almost surgical precision.”
Stein then turned his focus to attacking just one of his opponents; Mark Robinson.
“He disabused the 2020 Election results,” said Stein. “I say that is a big dangerous lie and that Mark Robinson is wrong.”
He also accused Robinson of calling school teachers “wicked people” and that Robinson calls “LGBT folks filth.” Stein was likely referring to remarks Robinson has made at various church speaking engagements.
The “wicked” remark came during a speaking event this past July where he spoke against indoctrination and sexually explicit materials in schools.
“Make it at the church house, make it at your house, make it at your clubhouse, make it at the VFW. Do it wherever you can. Do not turn your children over to these wicked people,” Robinson said at Winkler’s Grove Baptist Church. “Do not…While we work to get these schools back in shape. We don’t want to see one child lost.”
The “filth” remark was also taken from a church event at Asbury Baptist Church in Seagrove, North Carolina this past June. Robinson’s remarks were directly related to sexually explicit topics and gender ideology and gender transitioning practices being found in schools, a fact to which parents have increasingly raised objections about both in North Carolina as well as nationwide.
“I’m saying this now, and I’ve been saying it, and I don’t care who likes it: Those issues have no place in a school,” Robinson said during the Asbury Baptist Church event. “There’s no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality — any of that filth.”
Former N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Michael Morgan, Stein’s Democrat Primary opponent, issued a statement on the social media platform X about Stein’s event, calling it a “manufactured gathering.”
“Josh Stein, welcome to Southeast Raleigh,” Morgan wrote. “As my 2024 primary election opponent for Governor of North Carolina finds his way to Shaw University today for an orchestrated, manufactured gathering disguised as a “rally” on the HBCU’s campus, others join me in shaking our heads over this made-for-TV and social media exhibition.”
“The Stein camp has developed this pop-up mirage in an obvious response to my recently- announced candidacy in order to try to create an impression that I don’t have sufficient support in my own community to win this race,” wrote Morgan. “However, Southeast Raleigh has been my home for 39 years: living here, worshipping here, shopping here, volunteering here, serving here.”
Morgan continued, taking aim at Stein’s authenticity and his “wealthy war chest.”
“My community, and others like it all over this state, knows that there is a big difference between my opponent and me when it comes to credibility and authenticity among the people to whom this “rally” is aimed,” Morgan said in his statement. “North Carolina’s state motto is “To Be rather than to Seem.” My opponent will use his wealthy war chest to buy time to show images over and over again from his staged extravaganza in an effort to seem like he is the people’s choice for Governor, when in fact I continue to be the real candidate for Governor who continues to demonstrate every day a commitment to all North Carolinians.”
As of August, Stein’s campaign had over $8.23 million cash on hand.