NC-Sen: Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory announced Wednesday that he would enter the primary to succeed his fellow Republican, retiring Sen. Richard Burr. The only other notable Republican currently in the race is former Rep. Mark Walker, but a number of others have expressed interest. We also got a new name this week when an unnamed spokesperson for far-right Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson confirmed that he was thinking about getting in.
We’ll start with McCrory, a longtime politician who tried to rebrand himself as an “outsider” in his kickoff video. McCrory was elected mayor of Charlotte back in 1995, and he cultivated a moderate reputation during his 14 years in office. McCrory lost a close race for governor in 2008 to Democrat Bev Perdue, and he decided to retire as mayor the following year ahead of their widely anticipated 2012 rematch. Perdue, though, ended up retiring in the face of poor approval ratings, and McCrory decisively won the contest to succeed her.
McCrory ditched his centrist image early in his tenure and cooperated with the GOP-dominated legislature to pass right-wing bills that restricted access to abortion, cut unemployment benefits, and made it tougher to vote. The legislation that McCrory would be most remembered for, though, was HB2, the 2016 anti-LGBTQ "bathroom bill" that sparked a backlash and boycott threats by major businesses.
That bill likely cost McCrory a second term that year in his competitive battle against Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper. Donald Trump carried North Carolina 50-46 and Burr won by an even larger margin, but Cooper still unseated McCrory 49.0-48.8. McCrory took a month to concede, and that admission came only after he’d filed countless protests with various state and county elections boards challenging the validity of hundreds of votes and baselessly alleging fraud. Days before his departure from office, McCrory signed a bill that dramatically limited the new governor’s power.
The Trump White House eyed McCrory for an administration post but passed on him; documents published in 2019 revealed that some of the many “red flags” raised were how he’d “refused to concede,” that he’d “signed legislation removing an estimated 170,000 jobless workers from the unemployment benefit rolls,” and his “close ties to Duke Energy” in light of an ash spill in North Carolina.
The former governor instead became a conservative radio host, but he made it clear that he wanted to return to office in some way. McCrory expressed interest in early 2019 in running for Burr’s seat, and he finally got in on Wednesday.
Fellow Republican Mark Robinson, by contrast, had not shown any obvious interest in this race in the months since he was elected lieutenant governor until Wednesday, when a spokesperson (who curiously asked to not be publicly identified) told WRAL that Robinson was thinking about it. Dallas Woodhouse, the infamous former executive director of the state GOP, also wrote the previous day that Robinson “plans to announce his decision within days.”
Robinson, unlikely McCrory, has only been on the political scene for a short time. Robinson became a conservative celebrity in 2018 for a speech protesting the cancellation of a gun show in Greensboro, and he used that fame to defeat several more established Republicans in the 2020 primary.
Robinson then made news in the general election when he stood by his ugly old Facebook posts, which included anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and transphobic screeds. However, that press didn’t stop Robinson from beating Democrat Yvonne Lewis Holley, who would have also been the first African American elected lieutenant governor, by a 52-48 margin.