Mark Robinson has been leading significantly in the polls since he announced his 2024 run in the Republican primary for North Carolina governor, including a Civitas poll in August. However, some attendees of two recent Republican primary events say they changed their minds about supporting the lieutenant governor after he was a no-show at both.

Robinson was invited to a recent debate held by the Wake County GOP and to a Republican Women of Greater Charlotte candidate forum.

“A lot of people changed their minds at that panel because Dale Folwell told us many things that we did not have prior knowledge of like, he [Robinson] doesn’t come to a lot of the committee meetings,” Carol Kuester, president of the Republican Women of Great Charlotte, told Carolina Journal in a telephone interview. “I think that’s really what hit people was that he wasn’t showing up for these committee meetings that he as a lieutenant governor is supposed to show up for,” 

Folwell, current state treasurer; former congressman Mark Walker; businessman Jesse Thomas; and former state Sen. Andy Wells attended the Sept. 13 event at Maggiano’s in Charlotte. About 130 people attended.

A straw poll conducted before and after the panel showed that 53% of respondents changed their minds, with Robinson losing support. He had been in the lead with 66% of the vote before and fell to third place, with only 11% support. Folwell and Walker gained the most, almost tying for the top spot. Folwell had 15% before the event and 41% afterward. Walker tied with Folwell with 15% before and 40% after. Thomas and Wells rounded out the poll.

“I spoke to several people that said they had changed their vote,” said Kuester. “Many of them said Dale Folwell, and many of them said Mark Walker, and they were going to switch from Mark Robinson. So it changed people’s minds, and it has changed from Mark Robinson being way ahead to, I think Mark Walker is closing the gap somewhat from what I heard.”

Similar results came from a straw poll taken at the Wake GOP debate held on Sept. 12 at the MacGregor Downs Country Club in Cary, with Dale Folwell and Mark Walker tied at 35%, followed by Mark Robinson at 5%, Jesse Thomas at 2%, and Andy Wells, who was also not in attendance at the Wake GOP event, with 0%.

Jesse Thomas, former congressman Mark Walker, and Dale Folwell, current state treasurer, candidates on the Republican ticket for governor. Wake GOP Governor’s debate held Sept. 12 at the MacGregor Downs Country Club in Cary. Courtesy of Wake GOP to Carolina Journal.

Karyn Mulligan, 1st vice chair of Wake GOP, told CJ in an emailed statement, “Obviously, we would have appreciated Lt. Gov. Robinson’s attendance, as well as Mr. Wells; however, we had a very lively discussion with the candidates who showed up. I am sure our audience would like to have heard from the other candidates, but we understand scheduling conflicts and hope to have the other candidates attend upcoming events so our Wake County Republicans can make an informed decision.”

She said overall, the debate went very well with a large crowd, including many voters from surrounding counties.

“I think this underscores the desire of Republicans to hear from all of the candidates,” she said. “Over the next few months, I hope the Wake GOP will be able to provide additional forums, and all candidates will attend.”

Kuester agrees with Mulligan about the importance of all candidates, including Robinson, appearing at these events so everyone can hear from them and ask questions. 

“He should have come [to the RWGC event] because I think he could have spoken up for himself,” she said. “Because you know how they’re going to bring out the negative about someone that’s not there. I think he needs to let people ask questions.”

Kuester said that although she likes what Robinson has to say, she does question if he intends to do what he says he will do if elected governor. 

“I really like the way he speaks, you know, he speaks his mind, and he comes out with a lot of things that we as conservatives are interested in, the schools, police,” she said. “There are all these major things that we are having trouble with. He just hits it between the eyes, I mean he talks about it and says how he’s going to change it, but then when you hear if he’s showing up (at meetings), you’re just wondering if he is going to follow through on those promises, so I don’t know.” 

Carolina Journal reached out to Robinson campaign for comment, but there was no response prior to publication of this article.