“Nancy Sinatra, will you be quiet!” implored Mark Robinson of Greensboro. “These Boots Were Made for Walking” still blared through the speakers as he tried to make his victory speech at a podium inside Modlin Farm, at the end of a road in Archdale.
He had just won the Republican nomination for the lieutenant governor’s race, emerging early from a crowded, nine-candidate field with about a third of the vote and holding on through the night. At 9:15 p.m., his was one of the earlier races called that evening. He will face Democrat winner Yvonne Holley in November.
It’s been a wild ride since his comments during a Greensboro City Council meeting in April 2018 went viral — he was speaking out against the cancellation of a gun show at the Greensboro Coliseum; the online footage has been viewed more than 1 million times. Since then he’s spoken at the NRA convention and appeared as a guest on Fox News, where host Brian Kilmeade suggested he run for office.
As the music faded, Robinson thanked the ones who brought him here, perhaps a hundred of them eating from a catered buffet line and watching the returns come across on two big screens on either side of the stage.
“This victory is because of patriots like you,” he said to cheers. “That’s what has set our campaign apart from every other campaign in this race, in this cycle, as a matter of fact. This is a true grassroots movement of the people who are desperate for change.”
“And it starts right there in the halls of government with folks no longer being concerned with getting rich and re-elected, but be in service to the people that have put them in office.”
Clapping now. “That’s right.”
Robinson’s campaign manager, Conrad Pogorzelski III, credited the win to a barnstorming tour through all 100 NC counties.
“It was brutal,” he said. “We did about six a day, for 12 hours a day.”
Pogorzelski noted that, if Robinson wins the general election in the fall, he will be the state’s first African-American lieutenant governor.
Elsewhere in the Council of State races, current Forsyth County district attorney Jim O’Neil, who lost his bid for the Republican nomination for attorney general in 2016, prevailed in a three-way race with almost half of the vote. The auditor’s race will be between incumbent Democrat Beth Wood, who held off challenger Luis A. Toledo by a wide margin, and Republican victor Tony Street. Democrat Jenna Wadsworth will challenge incumbent Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler in the general election. Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey fought off a Republican primary challenger, Ronald Pierce, by more than 30 points. Josh Dobson took the Republican nomination for commissioner of labor, an open seat, and will face Democrat Jessica Holmes, a Wake County commissioner, in November.
In the Republican race for secretary of state, EC Sykes will face longtime incumbent Elaine Marshall in the fall and incumbent Republican State Treasurer Dale Folwell will face Democratic candidate Ronnie Chatterji, who narrowly won a close three-way race.
In the open seat for superintendent of public instruction, UNCG associate professor Jen Mangrum won the Democratic race against four challengers.
Mangrum who came to politics with an unsuccessful run against Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger Jr. in 2018, came in a close second this year’s race in Guilford County, where she lives and works, behind Constance (Lav) Johnson, while Keith A. Sutton took most of the counties east of Raleigh. Mangrum’s coalition of the rest was enough to get her on the ballot against former Pat McCrory education advisor, Republican Catherine Truitt, for the open seat.
“She is an outstanding professor who leads one of the best programs that prepares teachers,” said Nargiza Kiger, a graduate student at UNCG, after voting at the Little Creek Community Center in Winston-Salem. “She is well fit for the job. She understands how public education works and how to change it.”
Results in the governor’s races fell along predictable lines. Incumbent Democrat Roy Cooper and current Lt. Gov. Dan Forest both won handily. Winston-Salem voter David Hill, 54, cast his vote for Forest at Little Creek as well.
“I like Dan Forest,” he said. “He’s pro-life. He protects the Second Amendment. He’s a true conservative. He’s been serving as lieutenant governor. The other candidate [Holly Grange], I just don’t know much about her.”
The Republican ballot had two races in the state House that concerned Triad residents. In District 59, covering the eastern side of Guilford County surrounding Greensboro, House Whip Jon Hardister handily defended his incumbency against primary challenger Allen Chappell. District 60, currently represented by Democrat Cecil Brockman in the southeast corner of Guilford, saw trucker Frank Ragsdale beat another first-time candidate and avowed non-politician Ryan A. Blankenship by more than 10 points.
The Democrat ballot held more competitive and consequential races. An open seat in District 72 — vacated by Derwin Montgomery, who ran for Congress — will almost certainly go to Amber M. Baker, who won the Democratic primary by almost 20 points. Democratic candidates in District 75, which covers a strip across the south side of Winston-Salem, view the prospect of turning the seat blue in the fall as a reachable goal. Elisabeth Motsinger, the longest-serving Democrat on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board, defeated Gardenia Henley by 28 points. Incumbent Republican Donny Lambeth did his part by beating a primary challenger, Jacob Baum, by 36 points. And in District 71, where there is no Republican challenger in the general election, incumbent Evelyn Terry prevailed against primary challenger Kanika Brown, winning the night by 30 points.