2024 North Carolina governor’s race: A complete list of candidates
On the political horizon in North Carolina is a consequential election in 2024 on multiple levels. Not only will voters from Bryson City to Buxton go to the polls to cast ballots in a presidential election, but they will also choose a new governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and other important elected Council of State positions.
Because of term limits, incumbent Gov. Roy Cooper is forbidden to seek reelection this time around. So, for the first time since 2016, the state’s highest office will have a new leader. Will voters repeat what they did in that election — where they chose the Democratic attorney general — or will they do what they did in 2008, when they picked then-Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue to slide over to the bigger chair. Or, will voters find someone outside the current Council of State to be more appealing, like in 2012, when they elected former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory to the governorship.
Here is a complete list of who is running for Governor of North Carolina ahead of the 2024 primary election, set for March 5.
- Before he was elected to the office of State Treasurer in 2017, Folwell worked in the state Division of Employment Security under former Gov. Pat McCrory, and before that was the state House Representative for North Carolina’s 74th District from 2005 to 2013. He was reelected treasurer in 2020 – fighting off a challenge from Democrat Ronnie Chatterji – but is now seeking a higher office. Folwell unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 2012 but lost in the primary.
- A late entry into the race, the Salisbury-based attorney declared his candidacy in mid-October. Graham previously ran for the position in 2008, losing to fellow Republican Pat McCrory. This time, Graham says he'll spend $5 million of his own money, which could help him compete with a frontrunner like Robinson. Graham says he wants to cut taxes on food and make drug dealers face the death penalty.
- Widely seen as the favorite to win the Republican nomination, Robinson became the first Black person elected to the office of Lt. Gov. of North Carolina when he beat Yvonne Lewis Holley for the job in the 2020 election. A veteran of the Army Reserves and a former factory worker, Robinson was a political newcomer until 2018, when a video of him advocating for gun rights at a Greensboro City Council meeting went viral. Robinson has remained a loyal and vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump. Robinson has also been criticized for promoting conspiracy theories and for his history of anti-LGBTQ and misogynistic statements.
- A member of the North Carolina Board of Transportation and a former state legislature member, Wells is again throwing his hat into the ring for another statewide election, this time seeking the governorship. In 2020, he came in a distant second to Robinson in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, garnering 14.5% of the vote in a crowded field. A real estate developer from Hickory, Wells served in the North Carolina state Senate from 2015 to 2020 and in the state House for a term before that.
Note: Former Congressman Mark Walker was in the race until dropping out in late October to run for his congressional seat again. Jesse Thomas — a retired health care executive who led the Medicaid plan offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina — was also in this race, but dropped out to run for Secretary of State.
- A second Democrat jumped in the race for the governor’s mansion when Morgan, a former state Supreme Court Justice, announced his candidacy in early September. A native of New Bern who holds degrees from Duke and North Carolina Central universities, Morgan served on the state’s highest court from 2017 until his recent resignation on Sept. 11, 2023. A former District Court Judge in Wake County, he has also served on the state Superior Court, worked in the North Carolina Department of Justice, and was the state assistant attorney general from 1983 to 1989.
- Stein is seen as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination and, for a while, was the only member of the party running to succeed Cooper. After serving in the state Senate for seven years, Stein was elected as North Carolina’s attorney general in 2016, then reelected in 2020. He won both races by slim margins; less than 1%. During his time as attorney general, Stein has sued the U.S. Postal Service, e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL, and he helped secure settlements from drug makers to combat against the opioid epidemic. Most recently, Stein threatened legal action against the NCAA over the eligibility of UNC-Chapel Hill football player Tez Walker. Stein was endorsed by Cooper in August, and his campaign raised $6 million in the first half of 2023.
- After earning just 1.4% of the vote in North Carolina’s 2022 general election for a U.S. Senate seat, Bray is back in another statewide race. Bray is no stranger to elections, but hasn’t won one yet. He In addition to the Senate race in 2022, he also unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2019 and for the U.S. Senate in 2020. But in that 2020 race – in which Thom Tillis won reelection over Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham by a margin of just 95,633 votes – Bray garnered 171,571 votes. It was proof that, in tight races, the presence of a third-party candidate can have an impact.
- A businessman from Gaston County, Ross has never held elected office before in the state. According to his LinkedIn profile, he once worked for Wells Fargo, but in 2018 started his financial advising business “My Money Coach.” He is the development coordinator for the Libertarian Party of North Carolina.
WUNC Capital Bureau Chief Colin Campbell contributed to this story.