RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell announced Saturday that he will run for governor in 2024, likely requiring him to beat Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson to win the Republican nomination.
While Republicans have controlled the Legislature since 2011 and won a majority on the state Supreme Court last November, they have struggled to get into the Executive House. The GOP has won only one gubernatorial election since 1992, and the winner, Pat McCrory, served only four years.
Folwell, a former lawmaker, school board member and state unemployment office chief who was first elected treasurer in 2016, said he would bring authority to state government in a fiscally sound way and look out for working people if elected.
“The root of the word ‘governor’ is to rule, and what it means is to be the CEO of the largest company in the state,” Folwell said in an interview with The Associated Press. “And based on my experience in saving lives, minds and money, I’m uniquely qualified for that.”
The state constitution prevents Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper from running for a third consecutive term.
Folwell said in September that he was strongly considering a run for governor after encouragement from several Republicans. He first revealed his plans at Saturday’s Republican Party convention for Forsyth County, where he lives.
The announcement came two days after Robinson said he would hold a rally on April 22 at Alamance County Raceway, where he would make a “special announcement” about 2024.
Robinson’s campaign adviser declined to reveal his specific plans, but Robinson has previously said he’s pretty sure he’ll run for governor.
Robinson, who was elected the state’s first black lieutenant governor in 2020 in his first bid for office, published an autobiography last year and is a popular speaker at conservative churches and events.
Attorney General Josh Stein announced his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in January, directly targeting Robinson for speeches critics say disparaged LGBTQ+ people, women and abortion rights. Last week, Robinson criticized churches that fly the “rainbow flag.”
Robinson did not apologize for the specific remarks, saying he wasn’t attacking the LGBTQ+ community — it was a judgment on public school reading. He also said he could separate his religious views from his government responsibilities. But some Republicans are worried whether Robinson can win the general election in a closely divided state.
Folwell already criticized Robinson’s management style a few months ago.
During his announcement, Folwell pointed out that the public didn’t even know who Robinson was a few years ago. Since then, Folwell said, Robinson has “spent all this time attacking people instead of attacking the important issues facing our citizens.”
Folwell, meanwhile, said he’s appealing to voters because they feel as an elected official “I’m doing the right thing on their behalf.”
“They will respond to someone who addresses them as an adult,” he added.
Folwell said the timing of his entry into the race had nothing to do with Robinson’s upcoming announcement — he wanted to reveal his plans to his fellow local Republicans first.
Folwell, 64, ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2012 before landing his current statewide job four years later.
While treasurer, he focused on efforts to reduce health care costs for government employees and retirees and for the poor as a way to improve their well-being. As head of McCrory’s unemployment services, he helped implement system reforms and implement new technologies.
The state treasurer manages the state’s investments and its huge civil servant pension funds. His office also oversees the health insurance program for state workers and teachers and their dependents.
The state health plan is being sued over its decision — which Folwell is defending — to refuse to cover gender-affirming treatments for transgender employees and their children.
While delivering the Republican response to Cooper’s State of the State speech earlier this month, Robinson focused on his own life story, promoting fiscal responsibility and respect for police and public school teachers.
Folwell also talks about growing up in poverty. Folwell said his young adulthood included working as a garbage collector and in motorcycle shops before going to college and becoming a CPA. Then he worked for an investment firm.
Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, RN.C., has also expressed interest in a gubernatorial run. Candidate filing for the March 2024 primary takes place in December, but anyone else looking to challenge Robinson will feel the pressure to get in this spring.
At the end of 2022, Folwell reported $47,000 in cash in his campaign account, compared to $2.2 million held by Robinson’s campaign.