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Retired health care executive entering North Carolina's 2024 governor's race as a Republican

Jesse Thomas
Campaign Photo
Jesse Thomas' resume describes a more than 30-year career in the health care industry. He led the Medicaid plan offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Updated at 4:30 p.m., Aug. 9, 2023

A retired health care executive has entered next year's race for North Carolina governor, with Jesse Thomas describing himself Tuesday as a “no-nonsense Republican” who aims to attract voters within the “wide middle ground between the two extremes.”

Thomas, who led the Medicaid plan offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina to hundreds of thousands of consumers, announced his bid on a Greensboro-area podcast last week, when he also filed his candidate committee paperwork.

The WUNC Politics Podcast is a free-flowing discussion of what we're hearing in the back hallways of the General Assembly and on the campaign trail across North Carolina.

Recently involved in the North Carolina chapter of the Forward Party — founded by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang — Thomas joins an already crowded GOP gubernatorial field. Republican candidates include Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, State Treasurer Dale Folwell, former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker and ex-state legislator Andy Wells.

“North Carolinians are ready for a Governor that will provide real results for our citizens, not one who opines to the Nonsense of the hour,” Thomas said in a news release.

A Cary resident, Thomas said he would work to make North Carolina “first in healthy” if he became governor. His platform includes eliminating the state income tax, expanding alternatives to traditional public schools and managing successfully the soon-anticipated expansion of Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of adults.

Thomas was born in Mississippi and has had an over 30-year career in health care, including Medicaid managed care. His resume lists him as a former executive for health insurance plans in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois. In 2018 he joined Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, during which the company landed one of the state's Medicaid managed care contracts, creating what is now known at Healthy Blue.

Thomas said he's been a congressional candidate and a health care adviser to now former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's campaign, and he was a trustee at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Thomas' website describes him as a “peacemaker” who wants to attract more unaffiliated voters to the GOP. He said people are sick of “career politicians” and “extremists" who espouse acrimony, bigotry and anger.

“I come with a political savvy, and I do come with a perspective and a background of a tried, tested and true individual who has been there and done something,” he said on “The Common Ground Show” podcast, which focuses on racial issues.

In a brief interview Tuesday, Thomas accused Robinson — the leading GOP fundraiser in the race — of failing to show leadership as the state Senate's presiding officer in helping get a state budget passed that would permit Medicaid expansion to begin this fall, giving health care to more residents. Robinson has taken criticism while lieutenant governor for his sharp comments about LGBTQ+ rights, abortion and the role of women.

“He is focused on the culture war and the bedroom issues, instead of the kitchen-table issues,” Thomas said. For years, the office of lieutenant governor has had little involvement in General Assembly budget negotiations. A Robinson campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email Tuesday seeking a comment.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is the lone high-profile Democrat to date to announce a gubernatorial bid to succeed Democrat Roy Cooper, who is barred by law from seeking a third consecutive term. Primaries will be held in March.

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