North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced his bid for Governor last week, to succeed term-limited Gov. Roy Cooper.
Stein is the first Democrat to enter the race, which is expected to be one of the most competitive, and expensive, 2024 Governor’s races in the nation.
Stein, first elected statewide in 2016 in a state that has been recently trending red, launched his campaign Wednesday with a video targeting his likely GOP opponent, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.
The video opens with two men walking ominously toward a building and shows one lighting a match to spark a Molotov cocktail. Stein then appears, describing the night his father’s office was attacked over efforts to quell discrimination.
“It was a couple of hours before dawn, a cold February morning in 1971 in Charlotte’s west end. Julius Chambers, James Ferguson, and my dad, Adam Stein, were leading the legal battle against discrimination and for equality, when their office was firebombed and burned to the ground” Stein says.
“I’m Attorney General Josh Stein, and I learned early on that some things are worth fighting for no matter the opposition.”
The video goes on to describe “a different set of bomb throwers,” showing images of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol before pivoting to clips of Robinson, with Stein offering a narrative over images of Robinson noting that “some politicians spark division, ignite hate and fan the flames of bigotry.”
“Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson suggested that God calls men, not women, to leadership,” a newscaster is heard saying over images of a Black woman watching from a tablet.
“Called to be led by men,” a video of Robinson shows the Lt. Gov. preaching. “When it was time to face down Goliath, sent David, not Davita, David.
Another video shows him referring to “homosexuality” as “filth.” Another clip shows Robinson calling abortion “a scourge that needs to be run out of this land.”
While Robinson has not yet announced his candidacy for Governor, he’s widely expected to be a top contender for the GOP nomination.
“Some politicians want to tell you who you should hate, when you’ll be pregnant, and who you can marry,” Stein says in the announcement. “I believe in a different North Carolina, and that the fights we choose determine what kind of state we’ll become.”
The references to abortion will likely be a major component of the race. Robinson has declared his support for North Carolina becoming a “destination state for life” and called for tightening the state’s existing 20-week abortion ban, according to Fox 8.
The abortion debate, reignited after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, led Democrats to success in battleground state Governor’s races in 2022, including in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Stein is already leaning in, tweeting over the weekend on the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that “the date now represents a sad reminder of what we lost last year.”
“We must protect women’s reproductive freedoms,” he wrote. “Decisions about a woman’s medical care should be made by her and her doctor, not politicians. Stripping women of their reproductive rights is wrong. I will do everything in my power to protect reproductive freedoms for women in NC,” he continued.
Fifty years ago today, the Supreme Court guaranteed a woman’s right to choose. The date now represents a sad reminder of what we lost last year when SCOTUS threw out 50 years of precedent. We must protect women’s reproductive freedoms. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/dkhH3Or0Gt
— Josh Stein (@JoshStein_) January 22, 2023
Stein’s campaign launch video, with its evocation of racial tensions and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, also hints at other campaign strategies that play on growing frustration with policies many see as set backs for equality, including efforts nationwide to impose restrictions on “woke” policies, particularly in public education. Florida, for example, led by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, recently rejected a new College Board Advanced Placement class teaching African American studies. Florida, and other states with conservative legislatures and Governors, have implemented or pushed efforts also to limit or eliminate curriculum discussing race and LGBTQ issues.
Democrats face a difficult battle in North Carolina. The state hasn’t voted for a Democrat in a presidential or U.S. Senate race since 2008. But both Stein and Cooper found success on the ballot in 2016 in their respective races for Attorney General and Governor, capitalizing on frustrations with former President Donald Trump.