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Stein, Robinson outpace primary opponents in 2024 fundraising

Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (left) and Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein (right) are viewed as the early frontrunners for their respective party's nomination in the 2024 North Carolina governor's race.
Chris Seward, Hannah Schoenbaum / AP
Composite created by WUNC
Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (left) and Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein (right) are viewed as the early frontrunners for their respective party's nomination in the 2024 North Carolina governor's race.

The two leading candidates for governor have raised millions of dollars more than their primary opponents.

According to new campaign finance reports released this week, the Democratic frontrunner, Attorney General Josh Stein, raised $5.7 million in the second half of last year, and his campaign entered 2024 with more than $11.5 million in the bank.

Stein's campaign said in a news release that it "gained more financial support than any other gubernatorial campaign in an off year in North Carolina history."

The leading Republican, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, raised $3.4 million and had about $4.3 million on hand entering January. His campaign says that's more than previous GOP candidates for governor had at this point in the election season.

“Lt. Gov. Robinson’s record-breaking fundraising operation shows that Republicans have united around his vision and message for the future of North Carolina,” Robinson campaign consultant Conrad Pogorzelski said in a news release. “This race will be one of the most hotly contested elections in the country this year and could be the most expensive governor’s race this cycle."

One of Robinson's GOP opponents, Salisbury attorney Bill Graham, raised about $2.5 million — but almost all of that money came from a $2.4 million loan Graham made to his own campaign. State Treasurer Dale Folwell raised about $112,000.

And Stein's best-known Democratic primary opponent, former Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan, raised about $120,000, of which about $11,000 came from the candidate himself.

Here are other details found in the latest campaign finance reports, which cover July through December 2023.

What the candidates spent...

  • Stein: Spent about $2.5 million during the period, with big expenses on campaign mailers, staff salaries, fundraising consultants and a text-messaging service
  • Morgan: Spent about $87,000, about a quarter of which went toward video production. He also hired two political consulting firms but appears to have done little advertising.
  • Robinson: Spent about $2.3 million, including about $1.2 million for fundraising consultants. Robinson also spent $61,000 on campaign merchandise from a company called “The MAGA Mall," $179,000 on video production and $74,000 to hold a campaign event at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
  • Graham: Spent $2.4 million — much of it on TV advertising. He entered 2024 with $162,000 left in his campaign account.
  • Folwell: Spent $21,000 but left $1.2 million in his campaign account entering 2024. Much of Folwell's spending was on consultants and billboard ads.

Notable donors

  • Stein: Former Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Roy Cooper advisor Ken Eudy, Capitol Broadcasting executive Michael Goodmon, Raleigh developer Greg Hatem, fashion executive Ralph Lauren, former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack, Illinois Gov. Jay Pritzker, as well as PACs for the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association, the N.C. Chiropractic Association, Parker Poe law firm and Bank of America
  • Morgan: Former N.C. Supreme Court clerk Amy Funderburk, former N.C. Rep. Terry Garrison, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham, former N.C. Sen. Kirk deViere and former N.C. Rep. Yvonne Holley’s campaign committee
  • Robinson: Former Congressman Madison Cawthorn, Mountaire Farms owner Ronald Cameron, congressional candidate Fred Von Canon, Raleigh developer Jim Anthony, N.C. Rep. Howard Penny, Clinton Mayor Lew Starling, the NRA Political Victory Fund as well as PACs for Dominion Energy and the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association
  • Graham: CEO Doug Lebda of the financial firm Lending Tree, former UNC Board of Governors member and businessman Champ Mitchell, auto dealer Randy Marion, Republican consultant Paul Shumaker and Charlotte tractor dealership owner Ed Weisiger
  • Folwell: Former N.C. Rep. Rayne Brown, Raleigh developer Jim Anthony, former N.C. Rep. Bill Faison, banking executive Frank Holding, former N.C. Sen. Neal Hunt and former N.C. Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam

Fundraising in other key primaries

State Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg
Gerry Broome
FILE - State Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, speaks to students while campaigning at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021.

Here's how the candidates in other Council of State primaries fared in fundraising during the second half of 2023

Attorney General

  • Congressman Jeff Jackson, Democrat: $2.04 million
  • Congressman Dan Bishop, Republican: $439,000
  • Durham District Attorney Satana DeBerry, Democrat: $44,000

Lieutenant Governor

  • Rockingham County attorney Seth Woodall, Republican: $1.08 million (about $1 million came from the candidate)
  • N.C. Sen. Rachel Hunt, Democrat: $443,000
  • Former N.C. Sen. Deanna Ballard, Republican: $194,000
  • Former Dan Forest aide Hal Weatherman, Republican: $190,000
  • N.C. Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, Republican: $86,000
  • Pastor Allen Mashburn, Republican: $44,000
  • Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page, Republican: $32,000
  • Rivera Douthit, Republican: $16,000
  • Former N.C. Sen. Ben Clark, Democrat: $14,000
  • Peter Boykin, Republican: $3,700
  • Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O'Neill, Republican: $2,500

State Treasurer

  • Gabe Esparza, Democrat: $263,000 (including $50,000 from the candidate)
  • N.C. Rep. Wesley Harris, Democrat: $147,000
  • Bloomberg money manager Brad Briner, Republican: $28,000 (the candidate also loaned his campaign $500,000 prior to the reporting period)

Other treasurer candidates raised far smaller amounts.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.
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