Former Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan joins growing Governor’s race field

Published September 14, 2023

By Rob Schofield

As had been intimated in a series of recent public comments and social media posts, newly retired North Carolina state Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan announced today that he will seek the Democratic nomination for Governor in the primary election that takes place next March.

Morgan’s entry into the field makes him the second prominent Democrat to enter the race. Attorney General Josh Stein, who recently received the endorsement of outgoing Gov. Roy Cooper, declared his candidacy in January.

Five Republicans are seeking their party’s nomination — Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, State Treasurer Dale Folwell, former Congressman Mark Walker, former state Representative Andy Wells, and retired health care executive Jesse Thomas. The latter four will face off in the first GOP debate of the campaign Tuesday evening in Cary. Robinson, the frontrunner in the polls, will not participate.

In a statement, Morgan, 67, addressed the issue of the seemingly late timing (at least by modern political standards) of his announcement:

“To those who say that I am a late entry into the Governor’s race, I simply answer that I have been responsibly and successfully completing my work on the Supreme Court and can now devote all of my attention and energy to running for Governor.

As a devoted North Carolinian and a concerned Democrat, I am disappointed by the growing trend — even in my own political party — of a few folks in power trying to select the people’s leaders and determining our destinies. I am committed to challenging the status quo that allows a few at the top to choose the winners and losers among us.”

Morgan was elected to an eight-year term on the Supreme Court in 2016, but was not in a position to run for reelection in 2024 and serve a full term given the mandatory judicial retirement age of 72.

The race between Stein and Morgan could end up hinging more on matters like personality, electability and fundraising than significant differences over substantive issues. Both men are mainstream Democratic lawyers who have long served in state government, reside in Raleigh, and whose stated priorities have much in common.

Stein’s campaign website lists six policy priorities: education, economic growth, environment, public health, public safety and protecting seniors.

Morgan’s website lists four priorities: education, health care, gun violence and criminal justice refocus.

Both men would also break new ground if elected to the Governor’s mansion — Stein would be the state’s first Jewish governor and Morgan would be first African American to serve in the post.