WINSTON-SALEM — Touting a new vision for the state, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest officially kicked off his gubernatorial bid on Saturday in front of an estimated crowd of 2,000 people at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds.
“Unity and opportunity set the stage for possibility,” said Forest, who went on to say that that “leaders get stuck fighting battles of the past too often instead of leading us into the future.”
The event was broadcast live on Facebook. Forest’s speech ran about 10 minutes with a theme that North Carolina needs a new vision.
Hank Henning from Guilford County said he came to the rally to “support Dan.” Another attendee said that she was there to support Forest because “he’s definitely the kind of change we need in North Carolina” and that “Roy Cooper has to go.”
“The energy has been unbelievable,” said Forest campaign spokesman Andrew Dunn. “We have 150-plus volunteers here, and we’re expecting at least 2,000 Dan Forest supporters to show up.”
“At the heart of our campaign are the grassroots,” said Forest campaign manager Hal Weatherman at the beginning of the rally. “We’ve built all of our campaigns from the bottom up.”
Weatherman said the campaign already has over 6,000 volunteers signed up.
The 51-year old is the son of former Congresswoman Susan Myrick and spent 21 years as an architect before running for office. Forest is the first Republican ever re-elected to the office of lieutenant governor in the state. He and his wife Alice have four children and reside in the Raleigh area.
Summer Brooke and the Mountain Faith Band kept the crowd entertained prior to the introduction of speakers that included Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC5) and civil rights legend, 77-year-old Clarence Henderson.
Henderson, who is the coalition leader for African Americans for Dan Forest, was recently acknowledged by President Trump for his role in the famous 1960 sit-in at Woolworth’s lunch counter in downtown Greensboro.
“I support Dan Forest because he is the right person for the governorship of the state of North Carolina. He is a person who reaches out to the people,” said Henderson.
In his speech, Forest said he would lift up stories of those in need, calling their struggles the “soul” of his campaign and that celebrating the success stories from around the state would be the “heart” of it.
“I pledge to each of you and I pledge to all the people of North Carolina, I will run a campaign that appeals to your aspirations, not your fears,” Forest said while promising to visit all 100 counties.
Forest said various entities are trying to divide people by “following the playbook of identity politics” and that his campaign rejects those tactics.
“In our campaign, we will reject identity politics,” said Forest. “Identity politics represents the death of democracy. It threatens to burn down the house that our Founding Fathers built, and the people of North Carolina will not stand for it.”
Forest then pledged to unite the state as “one North Carolina” and told the crowd, “We don’t have a political problem in America; we have a moral problem in America.”
While speaking about human dignity, Forest called out Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper for his veto of a “born alive” bill that would protect infants who survive an abortion attempt.
“Opportunity must start at home with family values, morality, character and personal responsibility,” said Forest as he turned to education. Forest said he would “put students first” and empower parents with the ability to choose the school that works best for their child.
Forest called out Cooper for his attempts to dismantle the Opportunity Scholarships which provide funds for low-income students to attend the private school of their choice.
In his remarks, Forest also decried pushing kids into college to accumulate massive debt and then “sending them into the world with no marketable skills.”
Forest linked good education to a strong economy and received a standing ovation for calling out high-profile Democrats for their socialist platforms.
“Regardless of what Nancy Pelosi says, or regardless of what crazy Bernie Sanders says, or AOC says, socialism does not work,” Forest said.
Forest voiced traditional conservative themes on the economy, including supporting lower taxes, and said that families and small businesses “make better decisions with their money than the government does.”
“You’ve probably heard the proverb, where there is no vision, the people will perish,” said Forest. “Well, I ask you this question again, what is North Carolina’s vision? Where are we headed? How are we going to get there?”
As Forest concluded his speech, he said the state needed a new vision and the “right team” to lead the state into the future.
“What we need, is a new Governor,” Forest said, bringing the crowd to their feet again.
Forest will face Republican challenger Rep. Holly Grange (R-New Hanover) in the GOP primary on March 3, 2020. Grange announced her intentions in mid-July with a campaign video and press release. Gov. Roy Cooper does not currently have a primary opponent. The 2020 elections filing period runs from Dec. 2 through Dec. 20.