North Carolina is on the verge of getting a MAGA governor. Why do we let this happen? (2024)

It's not surprising that MAGA politicians get by on scare tactics and little substance, but I have to believe it will soon end and North Carolina will help that along.

Sara PequeñoUSA TODAY

There’s a type of person who thrives off of angering people online. They are commonly referred to as a “troll,” someone who likes being provocative to get a rise out of netizens who come across the post.

Donald Trump proved in 2016 that being a troll can win you an election and now is proving it can get you a second presidential nomination.

In North Carolina, my home state, there are two trolls on the ballot this year.Trump, whom you've heard of, and another who hopes to one day be just as famous.

There has been a lot of recent coverage of North Carolina Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, now a gubernatorial candidate. Earlier this week, The Washington Post wrote about Robinson’s Facebook posts defending abusers like Harvey Weinstein.

“Harvey Weinstein and the rest of these high profile Hollywood elites were merely sacrificial lambs,” Robinson said in a 2017 Facebook post, after dozens of women came forward to share their stories of Weinstein's sexual abuse. “They have been slaughtered in order to smear the airwaves with talk of ‘sexual harassment’ and how pervasive the culture of ‘toxic masculinity’ is in America.”

I’ve been following Robinson’s rise for years. It isn’t the first time the gubernatorial candidate has made headlines for the outlandish things he says.It also doesn't seem to be affecting his political career.

Mark Robinson's greatest hits of offensive comments

In 2021, he caught statewide attention for referring to gay and transgender people as “filth.” A year later, he faced scrutiny for a 2012 Facebook comment where he admitted to paying for an abortion in 1989, despite being staunchly pro-life as a politician. There was a period where his Facebook posts could have constituted a column a week with how controversial they are.

Despite the negative press attention, Robinson has a fighting chance of becoming North Carolina's governor in November. ChristopherCooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University, told me that the odds are almost 50/50.

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“He is good at getting his name out there, and he was able to win the primary, and that in North Carolina gives you about a coin toss chance to win the general,” Cooper said.

With Robinson, North Carolina has created another MAGA politician whose words never seem to hurt their chances of winning an election.

A quick ascent to political celebrity

In 2018, Robinson was just a regular guy when a video of him speaking at a Greensboro City Council meeting was shared by Mark Walker, the district’s U.S. representative at the time.

It gained millions of views on Facebook and landed Robinson on "Fox & Friends." In 2020, he ran for lieutenant governor of North Carolina, a position with name recognition yet very little power. Despite never holding public office, he beat Democratic candidate Yvonne Lewis Holley and took office in 2021.

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Since then, Robinson has become something of a right-wing celebrity. He has spoken at the National Rifle Association’s convention and the Conservative Political Action Conference. He’s been on Fox News repeatedly.

He has more than 175,000 followers on Facebook and 115,000 on X, formerly Twitter. Recently, New York magazine went so far as to refer to him in a headline as “MAGA’s Great Black Hope.”

Robinson is made in Trump's MAGA image – including scare tactics

In a way, Robinson’s rise to power mirrors Trump’s.Like Trump and other MAGA Republicans, Robinson thrives in the culture war. It extends past his online persona despite what little power he has as lieutenant governor.

In 2021, he began a task force to out teachers "indoctrinating" students. It was at the height of school board debates on "critical race theory."

Despite the promise of proof and 506 submissions to the task force in the first six weeks, there was little evidence that teachers were actually corrupting the state's youth. For a MAGA politician, the end result is never the point. The objective is to make as much noise about a social issue as possible, rile up the base and create a fake crusade against anything deemed "woke." When the proof isn't there, there is never an admittance of wrongs. They just move on to the next boogeyman.

Despite the scare tactics, it's clear that Robinson reflects some of the state's politics. In the past year alone, North Carolina has rolled back abortion access by instituting a 12-week ban and has villainized trans people through a series of anti-LGBTQ+ bills.

On the other hand, he has said things that even give Republicans pause. While acting as governor last October, he declared the state's support of Israel in the war with Hamas. It resulted in people calling him out for past antisemitic remarks he had made, including a Facebook post that outright denied the Holocaust happened.

The right does not seem to care about the horrible things Robinson has said – if they do, they aren't being vocal enough about it.

“Would he be better off if he wasn't so outlandish?” Cooper asked. “Probably, probably at the margins. But no rhetoric is going to tank a Republican or a Democratic candidate for a statewide office in North Carolina. It's just too close, and crossover voting is too rare.”

It's frustrating that nothing seems capable of sinking Robinson's gubernatorial odds, despite the horrible things he has said over the years.

It also isn't surprising. MAGA Republicans like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Trump himself have been able to soar past their conspiracy theories and social media posts to become legitimate threats to democracy, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves that there's no way they can win.

That's exactly how people treated Trump in 2016, and we saw what happened there. North Carolina is on the verge of finding out after November.

Follow USA TODAY elections columnist Sara Pequeño on X, formerly Twitter, @sara__pequeno and Facebook

North Carolina is on the verge of getting a MAGA governor. Why do we let this happen? (2024)


How many Republican governors has NC had? ›

Even so, Republicans have still had difficulty in winning gubernatorial elections in North Carolina, and the office has usually remained in Democratic hands; since Russell's departure in 1901, 23 Democrats and three Republicans have been elected to gubernatorial office.

How long can a Governor serve in North Carolina? ›

Statewide Offices
OfficeTerms of Office
Governor4 years; limited to two consecutive terms
Lt. Governor4 years; limited to two consecutive terms
Secretary of State4 years; No term limit
State Auditor4 years; No term limit
6 more rows

Is North Carolina a blue State? ›

In North Carolina, not only are about a third of registered voters Democratic, a third Republican, and a third unaffiliated (view our Voter Registration Statistics page for details); but also, top-of-ballot contest winners in our state historically have been a mix of Republicans and Democrats, even in the same election ...

How is the governor of North Carolina elected? ›

(1) Election and term. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State in 1972 and every four years thereafter, at the same time and places as members of the General Assembly are elected.

How many Democrats are from NC? ›

Current members

The delegation has 14 members, 7 Republicans and 7 Democrats. In 2022 , per the 2020 United States census, North Carolina gained one new congressional seat.

Is NC a red or blue governor? ›

North Carolina has a divided government where neither party holds a trifecta. The Democratic Party controls the office of governor, while the Republican Party controls both chambers of the state legislature.

How much does the NC governor make? ›

(a) (Effective July 1, 2024) The salary of the Governor shall be two hundred three thousand seventy‑three dollars ($203,073) annually, payable monthly.

Who was the longest serving governor of North Carolina? ›

James Baxter Hunt Jr.

He is the longest-serving governor in the state's history.

How long has Roy Cooper been governor of North Carolina? ›

Roy Asberry Cooper III (born June 13, 1957) is an American attorney and politician serving since 2017 as the 75th governor of North Carolina.

Is North Carolina racially diverse? ›

As of the 2015 vintage year of the U.S. Census series starting in 2010, the U.S. Census estimated that the racial distribution of North Carolina's population was 71.2% White American, 22.1% African American, 1.6% American Indian, 2.8% Asian, and 9.1% Hispanic or Latino (of any race).

Is North Carolina a good place to live? ›

While the Tar Heel State has minor setbacks when it comes to daily quality of life, the benefits of living in North Carolina far outweigh the bad! With beautiful outdoor views/activities, great job opportunities, delicious food and rich history to explore, the good times never get old when living in North Carolina.

Is North Carolina considered the south? ›

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the South is composed of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia—and Florida.

Does the NC governor live in the governor's mansion? ›

The North Carolina Executive Mansion is the official residence of the Governor of North Carolina and their family. Building began in the year 1883 and it was designed by architects Samuel Sloan and A.G. Bauer.

Who runs North Carolina? ›

Executive Branch

The governor is the chief executive of the state. Governor Roy Cooper is one of 10 members of the executive branch who are popularly elected. The governor appoints department heads, who make up the Cabinet.

Who takes over if the governor is out of state? ›

Generally, the lieutenant governor is the state's highest officer following the governor and assumes the role when the governor is out of state or incapacitated.

How many Republican governors have been elected? ›

State governors
United States governors Republican (27) Democratic (23)
California (list)Gavin NewsomOctober 10, 1967
Colorado (list)Jared PolisMay 12, 1975
Connecticut (list)Ned LamontJanuary 3, 1954
47 more rows

How long has Roy Cooper been governor of NC? ›

Roy Asberry Cooper III (born June 13, 1957) is an American attorney and politician serving since 2017 as the 75th governor of North Carolina.

Who is the Republican nominee for NC governor? ›

The Democratic nominee is Josh Stein, the current state Attorney General. The Republican nominee is Mark Robinson, the current lieutenant governor.

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