CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The announcement from the newest candidate for lieutenant governor in North Carolina could be viewed as a bit curious for one thing it didn’t say and others that it did.
State Sen. Rachel Hunt (D-Mecklenburg) distributed an email on Wednesday morning that made her the sixth confirmed candidate – and fourth Democrat – to seek the nomination for the state’s No. 2 job in 2024.
But what Hunt, first elected to the House in 2018 and then replacing 14th Congressional District Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte) in the Senate, didn’t say in her announcement was that she is a Democrat.
Hunt is a product of one of the state’s most powerful Democratic families, but the word “Democrat” does not appear in the release’s 10 paragraphs, although it is heavily implied.
What she makes no bones about, though, is that her candidacy is not about the three other Democrats who have announced but rather attacking the performance of the man who currently has the job, Republican Mark Robinson of Greensboro.
Robinson is presumed by most – and hinted strongly by himself – to be the GOP frontrunner for governor. The only confirmed candidate to replace Gov. Roy Cooper is Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein.
“I’ve had the honor of serving in both the State House and Senate to protect North Carolinians’ basic freedoms and work towards a future that ensures our children and families are supported and safe,” Hunt said in her announcement. “But in that time, I’ve had a front-row seat to the damage that Lt. Governor Robinson has done to our state and the office.”
Robinson has been an outspoken and polarizing figure as the highest elected Republican in North Carolina. He has been a supporter of former President Donald Trump and even this week made headlines – and started a fundraising approach among Democrats – for saying he wanted to make North Carolina an abortion-free state.
Hunt is the daughter of former NC Gov. Jim Hunt, a native of Greensboro who served four terms (two 8-year stints). She serves on four committees in the Senate and is the sponsor of SB 19, which would codify the abortion protections of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade and its affirmation in Casey.
An email to the NC Democratic Party and to Hunt’s campaign about the absence of the party in the release did not draw an immediate explanation, although it’s not as unusual a tactic as you might think.
“Similar dynamic that I see in primary contests: typically the candidate never tells voters which party primary they are in, leaving it to the viewer to ‘guess’ (though again, sorting has clearly helped to identify which policy positions belong to which party),” said Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba University and coauthor of the Old North State Politics Blog.
Hunt already has opposition, based on a tracking spreadsheet of presumed or announced candidates for the various statewide offices that comprise the “Council of State” that Bitzer created and has maintained.
All these races are on the ballot in 2024, and Bitzer’s sheet lists speculated Democratic candidates, such as former state Sen. Ben Clark and state Sen. Sydney Batch (D-Wake), but he has five confirmed candidates from the two parties:
- Democrat Chris Rey, a former military officer and mayor of his hometown of Spring Lake.
- Democrat Raymond Smith Jr., a former representative for District 21 in the state House.
- Democrat Delmonte Crawford, a civil rights activist with no prior political experience.
- Republican Hal Weatherman, who was chief of staff and campaign manager for former Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.
- Republican Allen Mashburn, pastor of Asbury Baptist Church in Randolph County who is photographed on his website with Robinson.
Hunt, a lawyer by trade and the mother of two, touts her support for public education, Medicaid expansion, paid family leave and increased minimum wage, among other progressive concepts.
“North Carolinians deserve leaders that are focused on the right priorities like expanding access to affordable health care, increasing the minimum wage, investing in our schools, and cleaning up the water we drink and air we breathe,” Hunt said. “That’s why I’m running for lieutenant governor – because it’s time we bring honor and integrity back to the office.”