A new television ad launched by the Republican Governors Association (RGA) claims North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein “failed women” by taking years to address nearly 12,000 untested rape kits across the state that could lead to capturing suspected sexual offenders that were yet to be identified.

The nearly $1 million ad campaign launched in North Carolina’s three largest metro areas features a trauma nurse from Bear Creek speaking on camera:

“Rape victims endure pain and trauma when they come to the emergency room, and they deserve justice. But Attorney General Josh Stein took years to address the rape kit backlog…. Now Stein is bragging about his work on rape kits? How dare he?”

The North Carolina governor’s race is the closest, and will likely be the costliest, in the country in 2024. Well over $100 million is expected to be spent on the race by the two campaigns and outside groups.

In 2020, incumbent Gov. Roy Cooper outspent Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest $26.5 million to $4.3 million, a ratio of 6-1.

Josh Stein won his race for state attorney general in 2020 by less than 15,000 (.02%) out of over 5 million votes cast. He out raised his opponent 10-1.  

The latest poll from East Carolina University from the first week of June has the race within 1%, despite Democrats already spending over $9 million before Republicans placed their first ad buy. Spry poll shows Robinson leading, as reported by Carolina Journal.

The Stein campaign is currently running ads against Robinson for his pro-life position on abortion. Other groups in support of Stein have been running ads applauding  the attorney general for clearing the rape kit testing backlog. Republicans also point to the backlog, but point out it took nearly his entire eight-year term as attorney general to clear.

Stein announced the clearance of the backlog in April.

“Today is a great day: North Carolina has ended the rape kit backlog,” said Stein. “I am incredibly proud of the bipartisan and collaborative effort that produced this achievement — Republican and Democratic legislators, district attorneys, and law enforcement officers all played a critical role in ending the backlog.”

The Stein campaign is likely to continue to highlight past statements by Robinson that some people might find offensive. 

The Robinson campaign will focus on Stein’s time as attorney general of the state, which saw a steady increase in crime during that time.

“Josh Stein likes to call himself the top cop in the state,” Mark Robinson’s political advisor Conrad Pogorzelski told CJ in an interview. “Yet, since he’s been Attorney General, violent crime is up, he has released violent criminals, and has surrounded himself with people who want to defund the police. Stein is a career politician who will say whatever he needs to say to get elected, but he can’t hide from his record.”

Pogorzelski added that Robinson’s story will resonate with voters and that he’ll be “the most well-funded Republican governor candidate in state history.”

“Democrats may put on a brave face, but make no mistake — they are terrified,” Pogorzelski said. “Terrified that Josh Stein is a weak candidate who historically underperforms, that Biden is a drag, that their voters are uninspired, and that so far spending millions attacking Robinson hasn’t moved the needle.”

In a state that has favored Republicans in statewide elections in recent years, Cooper has been an exception, polling consistently above his Democratic compatriots. Whether Stein can paint himself as another Cooper (who was also attorney general before running for governor) is yet to be seen. Both sides are leaning on messaging regarding Stein’s time as attorney general, especially regarding the rape-kit issue, hoping to frame it to their benefit.