Troubled waters for Mark Robinson

Published April 18, 2024

By Rob Schofield

Even in the current tumultuous political times, Mark Robinson’s rapid rise from an obscure former factory worker with a rather checkered personal past to the highest-ranking Republican in North Carolina state government has been a remarkable one.

Six years ago, Robinson was an unknown citizen with zero experience in public service or politics. Amazingly, however, all that changed overnight — a change so rapid that Robinson himself uses only a single sentence on his gubernatorial campaign website to summarize his entire political career prior to being elected Lt. Governor:

“In 2018 my life changed when I gave a speech to the Greensboro city council that went viral. A year later I launched my campaign for Lieutenant Governor and when I was elected in 2020, became the first black Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina.”

Today, however, as Robinson seeks election to the Governor’s mansion as the GOP nominee in this fall’s election against Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein, there are growing signs that sustained public and media attention on his past, extreme views, and penchant for making outrageous statements, may finally be catching up with him.

Three recent developments stand out:

#1 – This morning, ABC News reported that Robinson failed to file federal income taxes for a period of five straight years. This is from the report:

“…while Robinson has previously talked about his financial issues, bankruptcy records obtained by ABC News paint a more dire and detailed picture of his financial and business history than has previously been disclosed — including new details regarding how the potential future governor had failed to file his federal income taxes for five consecutive years starting in 1998.”

The report goes on to note how the failures, along with Robinson’s three previous bankruptcy declarations and other tax problems, stand in stark contrast to his repeated and fiery statements about the need for North Carolinians to take responsibility for their own actions.

#2 – New polling numbers indicate that Robinson is trailing Stein by a significant margin. This is from this week’s Quinnipiac poll release:

“In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Josh Stein leads Republican Mark Robinson 52 – 44 percent in a head-to-head matchup.

Democrats (96 – 3 percent) and independents (52 – 43 percent) support Stein, while Republicans (87 – 8 percent) support Robinson.

In a four-way race that includes third-party candidates, Stein receives 48 percent support, Robinson receives 41 percent support, Libertarian candidate Mike Ross receives 4 percent support, and Green Party candidate Wayne Turner receives 2 percent support.”

Eight percentage points in a closely divided state that’s leaned Republican in recent years is a surprisingly big number in a statewide race, and it probably relates in part to a third noteworthy development.

#3 – Robinson has failed to win the endorsement of several prominent state Republican leaders. Both of Robinson’s opponents in the GOP gubernatorial primary — veteran state Treasurer Dale Folwell and Charlotte attorney Bill Graham — have declined to endorse him. Folwell has even gone so far as to say that he wouldn’t “waste” his vote on Robinson and to characterize him as “history’s latest example of someone trying to rise to power through hate.” Meanwhile the state’s senior U.S. Senator, Thom Tillis, and former Republican governor, Pat McCrory have also declined to endorse Robinson.

The bottom line: Robinson’s candidacy for governor is far from dead and buried. He has the enthusiastic, if sightly strange, endorsement of Donald Trump (who said that Robinson is “better” than Martin Luther King — this, despite the fact that Robinson has repeatedly denounced King). He also enjoys a great deal of passionate support from many in the state Republican Party’s hardcore Christian conservative base. What’s more, the election is still almost seven months away.

But given the advantages Stein enjoys in experience and, thus far, fundraising, it’s clear that Robinson finds himself at present in some troubled political waters.