N.C. Attorney General to run for governor

Josh Stein (D) announced his 2024 bid in a video released Wednesday that targeted a likely rival.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (D) announces his run for governor, in this image from his announcement video.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (D) will run for governor in 2024, he said in a video released Wednesday morning, setting up a marquee battle for control of one of the nation’s purest swing states.

Stein, 56, has served two terms as the state’s top law enforcement official after representing part of Wake County in the state legislature. In his announcement, he pledged an agenda that would reach across North Carolina.

“I believe the fights we choose show who we are and determine what kind of state we’ll become,” he said. “My faith teaches me that we’re all children of God, and that we’re called to make a difference. This is our moment to protect our freedoms and democracy, provide every child a great education and expand economic opportunity to every corner of the state.”

Gov. Roy Cooper (D), Stein’s predecessor in the Attorney General’s office, is barred from running again because of term limits.

North Carolina is one of the few states in which voters routinely divide statewide elected offices between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats hold four statewide offices, while Republicans hold six.

At least two of those Republicans are also likely to run for the right to replace Cooper next year. Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R) and Treasurer Dale Folwell (R) are both said to be eyeing the top job, according to Republicans in North Carolina.

Tellingly, Stein called out Robinson, 54, over inflammatory remarks the lieutenant governor has made during his single term in elected office. Stein aired clips of Robinson making remarks about homosexuality, abortion and women’s fitness for high office.

“Robinson wants to tell you who you can marry, when you’ll be pregnant and who you should hate,” Stein says in the video.

A poll conducted in December by Differentiators Data, a Raleigh-based Republican consulting firm, found Robinson leading Folwell by a 60% to 6% margin among likely Republican primary voters; Robinson held wide leads over both former Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker (R), too.

North Carolina has been among the most expensive, most targeted states in critical races in recent years. No presidential candidate, in either party, has carried more than 51% of the vote there since George W. Bush won re-election in 2004; former President Donald Trump bested President Biden by just 1.3 percentage points there in 2020.

In the last 20 years, only one candidate for governor — Gov. Mike Easley (D), as he sought re-election in 2004 — carried more than 55% of the vote. Cooper won re-election in 2020 with just 51.5% of the vote. U.S. Senate contests have been similarly close; Sen. Ted Budd (R) won in 2022 with just 50.5% of the vote, while Sen. Thom Tillis (R) has won two consecutive elections with less than 49%.