Will African Americans Vote Mark Robinson for Governor?

Will they turn their backs on Democratic moderate Josh Stein?

Lt. Governor Mark Robinson
Lt. Governor Mark Robinson
By Cash Michaels –

Having announced his candidacy for governor, NC Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson now stands at the precipice of making history.

If elected, he would be the first African American in North Carolina history ever elected to the state’s highest elected office. It would be natural to expect that Black voters across the state would help the outspoken Republican reach that goal.

But, as has been undoubtedly documented by now, Robinson brings a lot of fiery rhetorical baggage with him to the gubernatorial campaign. Past divisive statements in speeches and social media postings have made him such a political pariah to moderate and left-leaning voters, that Robinson’s seemingly only chance of winning in 2024 is by corralling all the white conservative and right-wing voters he can get.

To be clear, the polarizing lieutenant governor has entrenched himself in a political cage of his own making, so much so that even though he is presently seen as the leading candidate in the probable three-way Republican 2024 primary (state Treasurer Dale Folwell has announced, and former Congressman Mark Walker is expected to later this month), Robinson may actually have to either control what he says on the campaign trail, or limit how many appearances he makes at which he says much of anything, to not further hurt himself politically.

That may work during the primary campaign, where extremist GOP voters may decide to choose Robinson for his “take-no-prisoners” cultural warrior persona, even if he only hints at some of his past outrageous remarks about gun violence, LBGTQ or abortion rights. And his Republican opponents—both moderates by comparison—may allow Robinson to calm down in an effort to display a more “reasonable” Republican Party in an effort to attract as many right-leaning, unaffiliated voters as possible.

But in the likelihood that Robinson does become the Republican Party standard-bearer in 2024 against a Democratic moderate like state Attorney General Josh Stein, he and his handlers have already begun setting a less combative tone to inflate his support base.

Right after Gov. Cooper’s March 6, 2023, State of the State address before the Republican-led NC General Assembly, a tamed Lt. Gov. Robinson delivered a sober, even-tempered response to prospective voters.

Robinson talked economic policies, not gay-bashing; lowering taxes, not abortion or gay rights. Like a well-made cake, the Black Republican cogently shared the potent political ingredients of personal growth through self-sacrifice, hard work, family and education in his well-delivered remarks. Indeed, Robinson revealed that he had recently walked the stage as a graduate of UNC at Greensboro, and presented himself not as a politician, but as “… a public servant who knows what the people of North Carolina are going through and wants to serve them and will fight for them like my own personal journey.”

By positioning candidate Robinson as “reasonable” now, the Republican Party hopes that by the time the GOP primary, and then the general election rolls around in 2024, the Black Republican’s imposing-yet-toned-down personality will be reinterpreted as strength, not loud, misguided arrogance, by a majority of North Carolina voters next year.

But will that be enough to attract sizable support from Democrat-supporting African American voters? Will they turn their backs on likely Democrat standard-bearer Josh Stein to help make history with a Black Republican candidate who politically is opposed to many traditional Democratic issues?

To be fair, Democrat Stein is not known for inspiring much trust or admiration from Black voters, even though he has won all of his elections. Stein has a number of public relations challenges he must overcome whether he faces Robinson or not, or else many Black urban Democratic voters might decide to stay home in 2024.

Couple that with the Black Lt. Governor going to rural parts of the state, pushing the kind of traditional values issues both white and Black voters out there understand and support, and Mark Robinson wins.

Robinson’s past vulgarities toward gays, Jews, abortion, and even fellow African Americans, may not be enough to damage his candidacy with the people who truly want to see him elected as the next NC governor—white conservatives.

And those vulgarities may not be enough to outrage Black urban voters to vote for Josh Stein against Robinson. They could just stay home. They’ve done it before. Black Democrats inexplicably stayed home in November 2022, when they had every reason to support a popular Black Democratic candidate, Cheri Beasley for the US Senate.

Now that the Election 2024 gubernatorial table is almost set, pay attention to how the Republican Party will further mold Mark Robinson into a hard-charging conservative “public servant” fighting for North Carolina values, and Josh Stein as a “liberal” Democratic politician who seeks to reverse the tide of Republican “progress.”

The bottom line is, as always in virtually every election, when it comes to 2024, the Black vote is key.

With a Republican-led state Supreme Court, NC Appellate Court, and a Republican-led state legislature, every Black voter will be the one to decide whether a Black conservative Republican governor is elected to determine the future of North Carolina.