ALTAMAHAW — With storm clouds swirling overhead, supporters of Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson were undeterred and headed into the stands at Ace Speedway, located in Altamahaw in Alamance County.
With the stands packed with what the campaign estimated was around 1,000 people, the April 22 rally kicked off around 4 p.m.
The 54-year-old Robinson became the state’s first black lieutenant governor in 2020. He garnered national attention after video of his fiery 2018 speech defending gun rights at the Greensboro City Council went viral. That speech became a springboard for his 2020 campaign for office.
Robinson has been a target for Democrats and left-leaning activists over his pro-life positions and vocal opposition to indoctrination in the classroom, including taking on controversial issues like perceived inappropriate sexual topics and controversial gender identity ideology in schools.
Robinson has already gained support from powerful Republicans in the state.
Video messages backing Robinson from U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-09) and U.S. Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC) were also played on the event’s giant video screen.
Near the start of the rally, nearly two dozen legislators took the stage in support of Robinson’s announcement, including Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden).
“We in the House, we wholeheartedly endorse and we stand behind our friend, the next governor of the state of North Carolina, Mark Robinson,” Rep. Neal Jackson (R-Randolph) told the crowd.
Following the video endorsements, as Robinson took the stage the venue was flooded with the song “Believer” by Imagine Dragons.
After thanking his family, supporters and volunteers, Robinson cut to the chase.
“Today, we make it official,” he said. “I am running for governor of North Carolina.
“So why am I running? I’m running for governor because we the people of North Carolina need someone who understands us. We don’t need another politician who spent their life climbing the political ladder. We need a public servant. Someone who’s actually lived through the struggles of everyday North Carolinians.”
Robinson, who is the ninth of 10 children in his family, went on to recount growing up in Greensboro with a father who abused his mother. He also spoke about being in fifth grade when his father died and it left him “terrified” of what would happen next because his father had been the only provider in the home.
He went on to say his mother went out and got a job as a custodian to provide for the five children she still had at home.
“I’ll never forget when she got her first paycheck and she brought home McDonald’s. Now to some of y’all, McDonald’s may not be a big deal, but that day, I ate a gourmet meal,” Robinson said. “I was so proud of my mom. She was and always will be my hero.”
Robinson touched on several topics including taxes, infrastructure, education, veterans’ health care and abortion.
“We must continue to be a state that encourages businesses to relocate here. But we need to ensure we are not just providing economic incentives to large corporations,” Robinson said of economic growth. “We must continue lowering taxes for everyone, not just for the benefit of those on Wall Street but for the benefit of those on your street so that hard-working North Carolinians have more money in their pockets as the prices of goods and services continue to rise under this terrible administration.”
On education, Robinson praised teachers and said to respect them “means treating them as professionals, protecting them as professionals and paying them as professionals, and holding them to a professional standard.”
He also said the increase in verbal and physical assaults on teachers “has got to stop; it’s unacceptable.”
He went on to blame failures in public education on a big government.
“The vast majority of our parents, teachers and students have nothing to do with the failing of our education system,” Robinson said. “That failure can be placed directly on the bloated bureaucratic system that is ineffective and does not serve the parents, teachers and students, but serves itself. That has got to stop.”
On abortion, Robinson said he wants to make the state a “destination for life” that includes “common-sense legislation to prevent abortions after a heartbeat is detected.” He also included the need to address child care issues, and the foster care and adoption systems.
Robinson also said the state needs to better care for veterans.
“That means more than just paying them lip service,” Robinson said. “We need to make sure that the same way we spared no expense (in) sending them off the war, we spare no expense when they come home and need our help.”
Robinson also took aim at the media and those who oppose his candidacy.
“Make no mistake: Despite what you’ve heard here today, the media, radical left, will still try to destroy me,” said Robinson. “The road ahead of us is not just a challenge, but one of historic proportions.”
He added, “I terrify those on the left because I don’t fit in their narrative. The media despises me because I don’t fear you. The establishment hates me because I can’t be controlled.”
Near the end of his almost 40-minute speech, Robinson said his campaign would be releasing a platform detailing what he wants to tackle as governor.
The NC Democratic Party issued a press statement that said a truck with a mobile billboard opposing Robinson would “circle Ace Speedway” that day during the rally, however, no such truck was spotted.
Robinson will face two possible primary challengers: State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who announced his bid in March, and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, who has signaled he will likely be entering the race soon.
Attorney General Josh Stein is the only Democrat to announce so far.