Under the Dome governor’s race edition: How Lt. Gov. candidates play into campaigns

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Welcome to your governor’s race edition of our Under the Dome newsletter. I’m Dawn Vaughan, Capitol bureau chief at The News & Observer.

Unlike other states, the governor and lieutenant governor do not run as a joint ticket in North Carolina. That means they can be from different parties, which is the case for current Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. Robinson is running for governor against Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein in the general election.

A second primary, known as a runoff, was held this past week in the Republican lieutenant governor’s race, and voters chose Hal Weatherman as their candidate to face the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, state Sen. Rachel Hunt.

Weatherman and Robinson

Robinson endorsed Weatherman, who was the chief of staff to Robinson’s predecessor, former Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. In an interview ahead of the runoff, I asked Weatherman about Robinson and if they would campaign together. Weatherman said he was “absolutely” willing to campaign together and supports him and has attended some of Robinson’s fundraisers.

I asked Weatherman what he thinks about the various insulting comments Robinson has made about other people, and past financial problems. Here’s how he responded:

“I think Mark is a transformational character. You know, he is a Republican, and he’s attempting to be the first Black governor of the state of North Carolina. I think the narrative casting against Mark originates primarily from people who want to defeat him. I think if Mark Robinson wins the governorship, the narrative that has been cast for years about what the Republican Party is, and what the Republican Party stands for, by the liberal left, and quite honestly by the traditional mainstream media, will implode overnight,” Weatherman said.

He thinks there will be stronger attacks during the campaign against Robinson.

“I think Mark is a good man. I think his heart is in a good place, He came from an unbelievably bad background in childhood, and I am proud of how he has come out of it,” Weatherman said.

Robinson wrote about his abusive childhood and domestic violence growing up in his memoir, “We Are the Majority!” Weatherman said he extends grace to Robinson because of what he’s gone through.

“The Bible says the sins of the father carry on to the third generation. ... The fact that Mark is in the second generation and has already broken free from that — and sure I’m sure he’s made mistakes, we all have — and has broken free and has turned his life around and now look at the blessing God has put upon his life ... One step away from being the governor of North Carolina is amazing,” he said.

Weatherman said that while he and Robinson are from the same party, they are each running their own race. He said he wants to “carry my own weight” but would be glad to campaign with Robinson, too.

Candidates for North Carolina lieutenant governor in the 2024 election are Republican Hal Weatherman, left, and N.C. Sen. Rachel Hunt, right.
Candidates for North Carolina lieutenant governor in the 2024 election are Republican Hal Weatherman, left, and N.C. Sen. Rachel Hunt, right.

Hunt and Stein

Hunt, who won her primary to be the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor outright in March, held a news conference drawing a line between her stance on abortion and Weatherman and Robinson, who both support “heartbeat” legislation that would ban abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected, usually around five or six weeks. Hunt, in her role as state senator, filed a bill proposing a constitutional amendment to protect women’s access to abortion. You can read more about that in my story.

I asked Hunt if she and Stein would go on the campaign trail together.

“We have not been together so far. We will see if that works out. Obviously, we have very similar issues,” she said.

Lines of power

Several of North Carolina’s top elected officials were in Washington, D.C., Thursday for the unveiling of the Rev. Billy Graham statue at the U.S. Capitol, which means that Cooper, Robinson, Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore were all out of state.

So who was in charge? If the governor is out of state, the lieutenant governor is acting governor, and so on. With the top four politicians away, state law designates the next person in line was Democratic Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.

Stay informed

Don’t forget to follow our Under the Dome tweets and listen to our Under the Dome podcast to stay up to date. Our new episode posts Monday morning, and I’m joined by my politics team colleagues Avi Bajpai and Luciana Perez Uribe Guinassi. We’ll tell you what you need to know about the General Assembly this week, from the mask, ICE and juvenile justice bills to what Republican House Rules Chair Destin Hall said about Democratic Rep. Marcia Morey’s discharge petition on gun bills.

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