NC Lt. Gov. Robinson ‘taking a serious look’ at run for US Senate in crowded GOP field

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Brian Murphy, Will Doran
·5 min read
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North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, whose political rise has been swift, is now pondering a run for a higher office.

Robinson, 52, said Thursday he is “seriously considering” a run for the U.S. Senate. He’s the latest high-profile Republican to publicly discuss a run to replace retiring Sen. Richard Burr.

He made his statement in a video posted on social media Thursday afternoon. The video was removed from his Facebook page, but appeared on other media outlets’ websites. Robinson said he was speaking from his office.

Robinson, who was elected the state’s first African-American lieutenant governor in November, said “many people” have approached him about a run. He said a recent poll showed him trailing only Lara Trump, the daughter-in-law of former President Donald Trump, in a primary race.

“Those poll numbers are very favorable to us. Because of that and because of the importance of this seat, we have decided to take a serous look at this race,” he said in the almost 4-minute video.

Robinson made it clear he has not made a decision but is “exploring that issue” and in consultation with “people that we trust.”

“I want to do whatever it is to be most effective for this state and this nation,” he said.

A spokesperson for Robinson did not respond to The News & Observer’s requests for comment.

Poll numbers

If he decides to run, he joins a crowded race of other established Republican names.

Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory announced his candidacy on Wednesday. Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker — who, like Robinson, is from Greensboro and played a role in Robinson’s rise — announced his run in December. Former Department of Defense employee Jen Banwart from Raleigh is also running.

Robinson’s polling data came from a poll conducted by GOP political firm Cygnal, which asked about Robinson’s favorability — a question not asked about any other candidate — in the poll of 600 likely 2022 Republican primary voters. It included eight named candidates.

Lara Trump, a North Carolina native, led at 32.4% with Robinson in second at 20.1%. McCrory was third at 14.2% and former Lt. Gov. Dan Forest was at 12.7%.

Forest has not indicated he is running or considering a run since he was defeated in last year’s gubernatorial election by N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper.

Walker and current U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, who is considering a run, were at 3% and 2.8%, respectively. Current North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore and current NCGOP chairman Michael Whatley polled lower. More than 13% of respondents were undecided. Moore and Whatley have said they don’t plan to run for Senate.

A rise to elected office

Robinson first made national headlines for an impassioned 2018 speech before the Greensboro City Council. The speech about gun rights went viral and has been viewed millions of times on the internet. Walker, then a sitting U.S. House member, shared the video, helping it gain popularity.

“When are you all going to start standing up for the majority?” Robinson asked. “And here’s who the majority is: I’m the majority. I’m a law-abiding citizen who’s never shot anybody, never committed a serious crime, never committed a felony.

“I’m going to come down here to this city council and raise hell, just like these loonies from the left do, until you listen to the majority of the people in this city.”

Robinson did not own a gun when he gave the speech.

In his video Thursday, Robinson said he had not planned to run for lieutenant governor, but “God turned me around and had me do something completely different.”

His win in the primary for lieutenant governor last year was due to his intense support among grassroots conservative groups. He was able to attract voters even without much advertising; the man who came in second, former State Sen. Andy Wells, raised around six times more money than Robinson did for the lieutenant governor’s race.

And in the general election, he defeated Democratic candidate Yvonne Holley — also a former state senator — despite former presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg’s political group giving $8.5 million to Holley’s campaign.

“God again seems to be opening up a door that He either wants me to walk through or explore. And that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Robinson said in the video.

Robinson has a polarizing social media presence and, at one point, backed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories during a taped interview with the head of the controversial Unification Church, which some consider a cult.

As lieutenant governor, he has focused on education issues, particularly a fight to stop public schools from changing social studies courses to focus more on America’s history of racism. Robinson recently announced he was starting a task force for parents, teachers or students to file complaints about what’s being taught at their schools.

Erica Smith, a Democrat who is running for U.S. Senate, issued a fundraising appeal Thursday evening, calling Robinson an “unhinged, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist.”

Robinson, in his video, didn’t give a timeline for his decision and said he’s not considering the U.S. Senate to “climb anybody’s ladder.

“I would hope that you all have heard me enough and know me enough to know that politics is not an end game for me,” he said. “The end game for me is to make sure that the freedoms we have in this country remain.”

Staff writer Danielle Battaglia contributed to this report.

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