Rape becoming a focal point in governor’s race between Robinson, Stein

The ad is in response to one put out by Stein touting the clearance of the state’s rape kit backlog

Attorney General Josh Stein speaks during a press conference last Tuesday announcing the state has cleared its rape kit backlog. (A.P. Dillion / North State Journal)

RALEIGH — As was the case in the 2020 race for North Carolina attorney general, crime is again becoming a focal point of the North Carolina race for governor as evidenced by two recently aired ads.

A new web-based ad claims the incidence of rape in the state has increased 53% during North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein’s two terms in office and hits Stein for “bragging” about his work on rape kits.

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Stein, the Democratic candidate for governor, is facing Republican Mark Robinson, the state’s first black lieutenant governor, in the upcoming November election. The North Carolina gubernatorial race is considered one of the most competitive in this election cycle. Cook Political Report, a nationally recognized elections analysis group, recently moved the race from “leans Democrat” to “toss-up.”

The ad is titled “Women deserve better” and features a nurse named “Amanda” from Bear Creek in Chatham County.

“As a nurse, I care for vulnerable women and families,” the woman says in the ad. “Rape victims endure pain and trauma when they come to the emergency room, and they deserve justice. But attorney general Josh Stein took years to address the rape kit backlog and he released violent criminals from prison early. Now, Stein’s bragging about his work on rape kits. How dare he? On Stein’s watch rapes in North Carolina are up 53%. Josh Stein has let women down.”

The ad was produced by State Solutions Inc, a 501(c)4 group based in Washington, D.C., with ties to the Republican Governors Association (RGA).

According to 2022 IRS filing for State Solutions, David Rexrode is listed as president. Rexrode was named RGA executive director in 2018. The only other officers listed in the filing are Erim Canligil as director and Laura Ciciarelli as treasurer. Canligil and Ciciarelli were both named to RGA senior staff positions in 2019.  As the last filing was in 2022, it is unclear if these individuals are still associated with State Solutions.

North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations (NCSBI) crime statistics, which cover the years 2013 through 2022, gives validity to the increase in rape since 2016.

The 53% claim in the ad appears to come from a comparison of 2016 statistics, the year Stein was elected, and 2022 figures.

The NCSBI’s index of offenses crime trends data, which is offenses and rates per 100,000 population, shows that rape is up 81.3% from 2013 to 2022.

NCSBI data also shows that for the 3,216 rapes in 2022, only 21.2% (681) were cleared. The previous two years had similar numbers of rape cases and clearance rates.

Crime statistic reporting by the NCSBI was changed Jan. 1, 2018, in an effort to comply with Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) requirements. The main difference is NCSBI annual data only reports the most serious crime in cases where there are multiple crimes committed, while NIBRS reports all criminal acts in an incident with multiple crimes.

NIBRS crime statistic reports are voluntarily submitted by law enforcement agencies nationwide. For North Carolina, NIBRS shows that in 2022 there were 3,050 rape incidents and 3,134 offenses reported by 418 law enforcement agencies in the state. Those reports cover “97% of the total population.”

The State Solutions ad is a response to one put out by the Stein campaign earlier in June touting his record as attorney general.

Titled “Keep,” the Stein ad opens with Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough stating, “Stein tackled the rape kit backlog, bringing justice to survivors and putting rapists behind bars.”

 

At a press event in April of this year, Stein announced he had “ended the rape kit backlog” in North Carolina. As reported by North State Journal, Stein said during the event he had prioritized ending the backlog since taking office in 2017.

The backlog has a more than 20-year history tied to Gov. Roy Cooper, who served as state attorney general for 16 years prior to Stein’s election to the role in 2016.  During his 2016 gubernatorial campaign, Cooper claimed he had cleared a “5,000-deep” DNA testing backlog that stretched back to when he became attorney general in 2001.

When Stein took office in 2017, North Carolina was number one in the nation for untested rape kits with a backlog of 15,000. After an inventory was conducted several years later, the number rose to around 16,000. In 2023, the backlog continued with 7,305 kits listed as untested in inventory even after legislative action allocating more funds for testing through the “Survivor Act.”

“Josh Stein likes to call himself North Carolina’s top cop. But since he took office, violent crime is up, he’s released violent criminals, and cozies up to radicals that want to defund the police,” Conrad Pogorzelski III, senior adviser and general consultant for Robinson’s campaign, said in a statement to North State Journal. “Stein is a career politician who will do and say anything to get elected, but he can’t hide from his failed record.”

North State Journal reached out to Stein’s office for comment but was referred to Stein’s political campaign. A response to an email inquiry has not yet been received from the campaign.

About A.P. Dillon 1342 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_