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Why Mark Robinson’s far-right gubernatorial campaign matters

The GOP keeps nominating unelectable extremists in competitive contests. Mark Robinson appears poised to become a striking example of the phenomenon.


North Carolina had an open U.S. Senate seat in the 2022 election cycle, and incumbent Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper admitted that he seriously considered launching a campaign for the seat, which he believed he would’ve won.

But as regular readers may recall, Cooper ultimately rejected the idea — not because he was worried about his Republican opponent, but because he was worried about his Republican successor. If the governor was elected to the Senate, Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson would become governor, and Cooper said he couldn’t in good conscience impose Robinson on North Carolinians.

That was two years ago. Over the weekend, as WRAL in Raleigh reported, the right-wing lieutenant governor nevertheless launched a bid to succeed Cooper in the governor’s office.

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson said Saturday he will run for governor in 2024, ending months of speculation over whether he would seek the state’s top executive office and kick-starting a battle for the GOP nomination — one that is likely to focus on whether he’s too extreme for moderate voters. His opponents will call him a bigot and hypocrite, Robinson said during his campaign announcement Saturday, but that’s just because they’re scared of him and his working-class messaging.

To be sure, it’s possible that Robinson’s detractors will call him an extremist because they’re scared of him, but it’s worth pausing to appreciate why, exactly, so many find the North Carolina Republican frightening.

In recent years, it’s easy to think of assorted GOP candidates and officials who’ve used provocative rhetoric, lashing out publicly at Americans they dislike. But even by contemporary standards, Robinson is ... what’s the word I’m looking for ... special.

In fact, his record is so overwhelming that, in a rather literal sense, it’s tough to know where to start. Looking over the MaddowBlog archives, for example, we noted a 2021 story in which Robinson condemned the LGBTQ community as “filth.” About a year later, the North Carolinian boasted about having an AR-15, which he said he intended to use against his own country’s government if it “gets too big for its britches.” He added at the time, “‘Cause I’m gonna fill the backside of them britches with some lead.”

But that’s just a small sampling. Perusing Right Wing Watch’s archive, I found this striking report about Robinson also declaring that the United States is a “Christian nation” — and he invited those who disagree to leave the country. He’s added that officials could eliminate school shootings by having public schools teach that Jesus is the only way to salvation.

Talking Points Memo also published a lengthy report last month on the North Carolinian’s rhetorical record, noting his social media content that included “extreme attacks on the LGBT community, immigrants, Jews, and Black people.”

By any fair measure, Robinson is among the most hateful radicals to seek statewide office in the United States in recent memory. A WRAL report added yesterday, “His candidacy has political insiders wondering: Will the same qualities that make [Robinson] so beloved by conservative activists also cause him to lose the general election?”

That’s not a rhetorical question. There have been a variety of examples in recent election cycles in which the GOP has pressed its luck, nominating unelectable extremists in competitive contests. Robinson appears poised to become a striking example of the phenomenon.

“Republicans are on the verge of wiping out what remains of Democrats’ political power in North Carolina,” a Politico report explained over the weekend. “The only thing they need is for the likely nominee for governor to not blow it up.”

Watch this space.

This post revises our related earlier coverage.