Trump, DeSantis to headline packed NC Republican convention

FILE - This combination of photos shows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking on April 21, 2023, in Oxon Hill, Md., left, and former President Donald Trump speaking on March 4, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

RALEIGHNorth Carolina Republicans will have an up-close view of the 2024 presidential primary this weekend as former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis headline the party’s annual convention in Greensboro. 

The two candidates, who have led public polling for months among Republican contenders, will deliver keynote speeches on back-to-back nights to convention attendees. DeSantis is slated to speak on Friday night and Trump on Saturday night. 

Additionally, former Vice President Mike Pence is speaking at a Saturday luncheon at the convention. 

“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Gov. DeSantis for the 2023 NCGOP State Convention in Greensboro, joining Republican leaders from across the state to lay the foundation for victory in 2024,” NCGOP chairman Michael Whatley said when the speaker lineup was announced. “This remarkable line-up is a testament to the importance of North Carolina as a battleground state and strength of our Republican Party going into a critical election cycle.” 

The star power of the weekend is a reflection of the state’s role as a Super Tuesday battleground in 2024. 

Republican National Committee rules give North Carolina the sixth-highest number of delegates to the quadrennial Republican National Convention in 2024. Party rules give the Tar Heel State 75 delegates of the 2,467 total. The only states with more delegates are California, Texas, Florida, New York and Ohio. 

The presidential candidates aren’t the only prospective 2024 candidates speaking at the convention. 

All three of the declared Republican candidates for governor will be given time to address the delegates. State Treasurer Dale Folwell, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker will be working the crowd to either show a force of support or gain support. Both Robinson and Walker call Greensboro home, and Folwell hails from neighboring Winston-Salem. 

The convention will also host party business including the election of the state chair and vice chair. 

Michael Whatley, who was first elected in 2019, is running for a third term to lead the party. His tenure has seen the party win the state for Trump in 2020 and two U.S. Senate races, regain a supermajority in the General Assembly and sweep the last two statewide judicial elections, including regaining the majority on the state Supreme Court. He faces a challenge from Raleigh-area businessman John Kane Jr., who is reportedly not a delegate himself to the convention. 

The vice chair race pits Susan Mills, who was elected to the post in 2021, against former Cabarrus County GOP chair Addul Ali. Ali, who was defeated earlier this year for reelection as the Cabarrus chair, has faced controversy over the course of his run. 

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Matt Mercer is the editor in chief of North State Journal and can be reached at [email protected].