RALEIGH — The frontrunners in both the Democratic and Republican primaries for governor entered 2024 with cash advantages over their rivals for their respective parties’ nominations.
On the Democratic side, Attorney General Josh Stein raised $5.7 million in the latter half of 2023 and sits on over $11.4 million cash on hand. That sum tops what Gov. Roy Cooper had raised at the same time in his two campaigns.
Stein’s closest competitor for the Democratic nomination, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Mike Morgan, raised $119,000 and sits on $32,000 going into the final month of the campaign.
Chrelle Booker, Gary Foxx and Marcus Williams, the other three Democrats running for the nomination, each raised less than $3,000 for the March 5 primary.
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who has been the frontrunner for the Republican nomination based on polling and previous fundraising, broke previous records for a GOP candidate in his report.
Robinson raised $3.4 million and had $4.2 million on hand going into January. That amount eclipsed the campaigns of Pat McCrory and Dan Forest, breaking new ground for a Republican running to be the state’s chief executive.
The two other Republicans in the race – Salisbury trial attorney Bill Graham and State Treasurer Dale Folwell – raised far less than Robinson, but both have loaned their campaigns amounts in the seven figures to close the financial gap.
Graham raised $112,000 and loaned his campaign a sum of $2.3 million. Folwell raised $93,000 and has loaned his campaign a total of $1.2 million. Graham, however, entered January with just $161,000 on hand. Folwell entered the final stretch of the primary with nearly $1.3 million on hand.
With Stein well-positioned in the Democratic primary and the force of North Carolina’s Democratic establishment behind him, the GOP contest appears to be the closer of the two.
While Robinson is ahead in terms of fundraising and available public polling, some Republicans have privately raised concerns about his burn rate.
Since entering the primary in April 2023, Robinson has raised nearly $10 million but has spent nearly the same amount as Stein – a potential problem when Stein’s campaign has raised nearly $7 million more.
A new Meredith College poll released on Monday confirmed that Stein and Robinson are on a collision course for the November general election.
The poll, taken from Jan. 26-31, gave the frontrunners leads north of 25% in their respective primaries. Robinson led Graham and Folwell with 34% to their totals of 9% and 4%, respectively.
Stein was ahead of his Democratic opponents with 31% with his closest opponents at 5% or less.
“It seems to be getting very late in the campaign cycle for any of Robinson’s challengers to catch up with him,” said Meredith Poll Director David McLennan in a statement about the results. “However, the large number of undecided voters this late in the campaign should be concerning to the Robinson campaign, especially as we move into the general election.”
McLennan was more succinct about Stein, adding, “It is difficult to see anyone in the field making this a competitive race with Josh Stein. His fundraising lead, name recognition, and early endorsement from Gov. Roy Cooper likely ensure his victory.”
The Meredith poll also continued to show a close matchup between Stein and Robinson with the attorney general ahead of the Lt. Gov. by a 39% to 35% margin.
“Although ticket-splitting – voting for a candidate of one party and another candidate of a different party – has declined significantly from a generation ago, North Carolina has a history of supporting Republican candidates for president and Democratic candidates for governor. The campaign is far from over,” said McLennan in a preview of the November matchup.
Early voting begins on Thursday, Feb. 15 for the primary, which takes place on Tuesday, March 5.