ORLANDO, Fla. — Elected officials and attendees from North Carolina received strong ovations at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, last weekend. CPAC, which rose to prominence during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, brings conservative activists and elected officials together and often features many well-known names in politics.
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson addressed the conference on Thursday afternoon, speaking after one of the most popular politicians in the room: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Robinson spent much of his speech highlighting education.
“We are fighting tooth and nail in my home state of North Carolina to straighten out our education system. We spend almost half of our state budget on education and our children can’t read at a grade level. Meanwhile, pornography is in our libraries, we’re in classrooms teaching children about transgenderism, and we’re sitting black children on one side and white children on the other – teaching them to despise each other. If ever there was a time for conservatives to stand up and fight in this nation, it’s now, right now,” Robinson said as the crowd roared.
Robinson also addressed the Second Amendment, protests against law enforcement, and his opposition to COVID-19 mandates.
Speaking later on Thursday afternoon was former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, the first of two Republican U.S. Senate candidates to appear at the conference.
U.S. Rep. Ted Budd (NC-13) appeared on Friday, participating in a panel discussion about education. The panel, titled “Pupil Propoganda,” featured Budd, Candace Owens, Stacy Langton, Indiana U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, and Deroy Murdock.
“Ted was invited to CPAC and enjoyed spending time with conservatives from North Carolina at the national gathering,” Budd senior advisor Jonathan Felts told North State Journal.
First-term U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (NC-11) spoke on the conference’s second day as well, and he also participated in a breakout session on Saturday focused on the Second Amendment.
He received a mention from former President Donald Trump during the 45th President’s featured speech on Saturday night. Trump said that the left was “doing everything they could” to keep him from running again, referencing a legal challenge to his candidacy filed by left-leaning voters with the State Board of Elections.
The former president’s speech was the most highly anticipated of the weekend.
Trump’s speech, which went for approximately 90 minutes, hit many familiar themes but was noteworthy for time spent on foreign policy and a potential domestic agenda should he run for president in two years – as he hinted to the crowd would happen.
“The Russian attack on Ukraine is appalling, an outrage, and an atrocity that should have never been allowed to happen. We are praying for the proud people of Ukraine,” said Trump in his remarks. “This would not have happened if I was the president.”
Trump also said that he has been the only president in the 21st century whose term in office has passed without Russia invading another country. The crowd stood in unison with “USA” chants for that accomplishment.
“Joe Biden is seen as weak, and I want him to do a great job, but when you have a weak president who is not respected by other nations, you have a very chaotic world and the world hasn’t been this chaotic since World War II,” said Trump during his speech.
He closed with a rallying cry for supporters in the room to vote in 2022.
“This coming midterm election is going to be more important than ever before. I’m asking you to vote for candidates who believe in the policies we hold dear. The stakes could not be higher and losing is not an option. We must win in 2022 and 2024,” Trump said at the end of his speech.
In another subtle hint about his future plans, Trump replaced the disco hit “YMCA” by the Village People he had been suing since the 2020 campaign with “Hold On, I’m Coming” by 1960s soul duo Sam and Dave.
Many CPAC attendees come from colleges across the country, with student rates that encourage their participation in the conference. Nearly two dozen came from North Carolina, including Joseph Verykoukis, who attends East Carolina University.
“CPAC 2022 in Orlando was electric! Conservatives are ready to take back the House and Senate in 2022, and the White House in 2024. The America First ideals, values and policies that will save our nation were on full display in Orlando,” Verykoukis told North State Journal. “As a college student and young conservative, the motivation and wisdom from the likes of President Donald J. Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and Gov. Kristi Noem, encouraged me and my peers to turn our passion into action here in North Carolina, as we seek to elect conservative patriots to positions in all levels of government.”