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Robinson and Stein in extremely tight NC governor’s race, WRAL News poll shows

With nearly eight months until Election Day, the North Carolina governor’s race is extremely close, with a sizable chunk of voters still undecided, according to an exclusive WRAL News poll.
The poll of 598 likely voters, released Monday, shows a too-close-to-call race for governor, with Democratic nominee Josh Stein leading Republican nominee Mark Robinson 44% to 42%. But crucially, 15% of likely voters said they’re still undecided ahead of the Nov. 5 general election.

Robinson and Stein are likely to spend heavily on ads and other efforts to win over undecided voters. Stein went into last week’s primary with $10 million in his campaign, more than double Robinson’s haul. A Robinson spokesman declined to comment; Stein spokeswoman Kate Frauenfelder said they “will work to earn every vote” with eight months to go until the election.

Despite belonging to different political parties, Stein and Robinson each won statewide elections in 2020 — Stein for attorney general, Robinson for lieutenant governor. So it’s likely that there are at least some North Carolina voters who supported both men in 2020. They’ll now have to choose one over the other.

The poll found Stein led among self-identified moderates by a significant margin — 53% to 25%. Robinson led conservatives 74% to 14%, and Stein led 86% to 5% among liberals.

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Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is term-limited and can’t seek a third straight term as governor. Cooper has endorsed Stein; Robinson has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee for president.

The governor’s election brings high stakes: The office is in charge of the state’s economic development strategies and decisions on public safety, environmental and public health issues, among other duties. The governor also has veto power that allows him to work with — or against — the state legislature, which is all-but-certain to remain under Republican control.

If Stein wins, and Democrats also break the GOP’s veto-proof supermajority, then Democrats will have increased leverage at the legislature to force GOP leaders to negotiate with them or avoid certain issues altogether.

If Robinson wins, then Republicans in the legislature can likely continue passing their agenda with few obstacles even if Democrats do break the supermajority.

Will Black voters back Robinson?

No matter who wins in November, the victor will make North Carolina history. Robinson would be the first Black governor. Stein would be the first Jewish governor.

But despite his chance to make history for the Black community, the poll found, Robinson so far hasn’t attracted much support from Black voters. For decades, Black voters in North Carolina overwhelmingly have been affiliated with the Democratic Party.

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Two-thirds of Black voters support Stein, the poll found, compared to 14% for Robinson. Twenty percent of respondents were still undecided.

And while it’s often thought that younger voters tend to be more liberal and older voters tend to be more conservative, the poll found the opposite could be true in November. Robinson is up by seven points among voters under 50 years old, leading 45% to 39%. Stein is up by 10 points among voters age 50 and older, leading 48% to 38%.

AG races also close

The race to replace Stein as attorney general — featuring two high-profile candidates with national followings, U.S. Reps. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, and Dan Bishop, R-Union — is similarly tight.

Likely voters are more or less evenly split but with nearly one in every five saying they’re still undecided. Among those who have made up their minds, Jackson leads Bishop 41% to 40%.

The poll shows other Democrats could learn from Jackson on connecting with Millennial and Gen-Z voters.

Stein and Robinson are tied among likely voters age 18-34, with 42% each. But Jackson has 49% of the 18-34 vote, which SurveyUSA President Ken Alper attributed to Jackson’s prodigious use of social media.

He’s well known for informal videos discussing the inner workings of Congress that he posts on TikTok, which have reached millions of viewers.

Jackson saw his congressional district turned into a heavily Republican district under new maps approved in October by the Republican-led state legislature — a move that has fueled his campaign pitch.

Jackson has said he wants to fight what he described as the kind of “political corruption” that led to maps that are expected to yield a 14-member North Carolina congressional delegation that includes at least 10 Republicans, even if voters break roughly 50-50. Republicans control the state legislature and state Supreme Court, which allowed the legislature near-total control over the district-drawing process last year.

Bishop, a Waxhaw Republican, announced in August that he’d be leaving Congress to run for attorney general. In his announcement, he said he’d be “a tireless backer of our state’s prosecutors and law enforcement officers.” And that he’d prioritize “protecting the public and keeping criminals behind bars.”

Bishop, who is a lawyer, former Mecklenburg County commissioner and former state legislator, said he missed practicing law more regularly, and sees the attorney general’s office as a way to counter an encroaching federal government and buttress law enforcement during a time of increasing violence. He has strong name recognition, with ties to major conservative donors and a Trump endorsement.

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