On Thursday, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson released a statement saying he’s holding a rally on April 22 to share a “special announcement.” He’s expected to enter the gubernatorial race.

The rally will take place at Ace Speedway in Elon.

Robinson would enter the race as the favorite to win the Republican nomination for governor. Robinson gave the Republican response to Gov. Roy Cooper’s State of the State address last month.

On the Democratic side, Attorney General Josh Stein is currently favored to win his party’s nomination.

In Stein’s campaign announcement, he directly attacked Robinson, who he presumed to be the likely Republican nominee.

“While some politicians spark division, ignite hate, and fan the flames of bigotry, Robinson wants to tell you whom you can marry, when you’ll be pregnant, and whom you should hate,” Stein said.

Following the lieutenant governor’s announcement, WRAL reporter Will Doran speculated that Robinson chose the kick-off location to signal that the theme of his campaign would be against the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Robinson grew up in Greensboro, less than 45 minutes from Ace Speedway.

“Ace Speedway is the business that repeatedly violated COVID-19 lockdowns in the early days of the pandemic in order to set up a lawsuit against Gov. Roy Cooper over the rules,” said Doran.

Axios Raleigh echoed the narrative, saying Ace Speedway was a “hornet’s nest of hostility toward Democratic policies during the COVID-19 pandemic” in their coverage of the announcement.

Additionally, less than 24 hours after the announcement, media began critical coverage of Robinson for comments he made during a speech last week at Trinity Baptist Church in Mooresville.

Robinson gives speech to Trinity Baptist Church congregation, beginning after the 34-minute mark.

Robinson’s speech to the church congregation was about courage. He told stories of several moments in American history, including the American Revolution, Civil War, Pearl Harbor, and the events of Sept. 11. In each instance, Robinson highlighted instances of “regular” Americans exemplifying courage.

Robinson himself was a “regular” citizen who rose to prominence by giving a speech to the Greensboro City Council about a gun show ban they were considering.

The media took exception when Robinson called out churches affirming homosexuality in their congregations and flying “rainbow flags” outside of their buildings. Robinson called it “a direct spit in the face to God Almighty” and said that “if this nation does not stop, this nation is going to be in trouble.”

Stein echoed the media’s sentiments, saying, “No! A rainbow flag is not a direct spit in the face to God Almighty” quoting Robinson’s comments from the church speech.

A national media figure from a site called “Talking Points Memo” shared an article labeling Robinson a “Facebook Brawler” for old Facebook posts from Robinson, the most controversial of which were all posted before he held elected office.

Stein shared the article on his Twitter account:

Both Stein and Robinson are widely expected to be their respective party nominees. However, both men may face primary challengers.

On the Republican side, State Treasurer Dale Folwell, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker are weighing whether to jump in the race.

On the Democratic side, Stein may still be worried about a primary of his own. One long-time North Carolina political consultant thought Stein’s very early announcement might signal concern about an African American candidate jumping into the Democratic primary.

“Josh is getting out early hoping to avoid any type of primary situation, whether it comes from his left or whether it comes from the African American base voters,” said Brad Crone, president of Campaign Connections.