Connect with us

North Carolina

Sen. Thom Tillis endorses Bill Graham for North Carolina governor, says Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson has 'virtually no legislative experience'



(WGHP) — U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) has endorsed a candidate in his home state’s gubernatorial race, eschewing frontrunner Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson for attorney Bill Graham.

Robinson, a Greensboro native, has been leading the GOP primary race, both empowered and haunted by his often controversial no-holds-barred takes on culture war topics, like race, sexual orientation and abortion. His outspoken approach helped to launch his career when a fiery speech he delivered on gun rights before the Greensboro City Council drew national attention and the support of the National Rifle Association.

More from FOX8

North Carolina Politics

Read more North Carolina politics news on

That viral energy helped to propel Robinson to his current seat as the highest-ranking Republican in the state and, in the governor’s race, has fueled his popularity and provided ammo for his Republican opponents. Most notably, it helped to earn him the promise of an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

Tillis, however, has tossed his support behind Bill Graham, a partner at the law firm Wallace & Graham and a former prosecutor. Graham announced in October that he would be running for governor, his second attempt after an unsuccessful run in 2008, paired with a $5 million investment of his own money into the campaign.

“I intend to do everything I can to help [Graham] get the nomination,” Tillis told National Review. “It’s not a personality thing to me or personal thing. I’m looking at two resumes and there’s a stark contrast in capabilities.”

Tillis attributed his concerns about Robinson to experience.

“Mark Robinson’s a good enough guy. I don’t know him that well, but he has virtually no legislative experience, very little business experience,” Tillis said. “We’re a very, very important state and we have to have people with that kind of experience, I think, to continue this track record that we’ve had since Republicans took control of North Carolina when I became speaker. And so for those reasons, I’ve decided to support Bill.”

In addition to Graham and Robinson, two others still stand in the GOP primary race: State Treasurer Dale Folwell and former state Sen. Andy Wells. Former Congressman Mark Walker dropped out of the race and set his sights on a return to Congress now that redrawn Congressional maps give him a stronger edge to reclaim his seat. Former healthcare executive Jesse Thomas dropped out of the race to run for secretary of state, and Steve Troxler decided to fight for another term as commissioner of agriculture.

It’s unclear how much of a difference Tillis’s endorsement could make with Graham trailing Robinson by 26 points in a recent poll from East Carolina University’s Center for Survey Research. Released Wednesday, the poll showed that 34% of registered Republican primary voters favor Robinson, the only candidate to score double digits. Graham came in second at 8%, followed by Folwell with 7% and Wells with 3%. Nearly half, 49%, are still undecided.

Robinson took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to respond to Tillis’s endorsement of Graham.

“Let’s be clear about what this is. The RINOs are coming after me. Bill Graham is nothing but a pawn who’s been suckered into spending millions of his own money on a personal vendetta against me that’s being driven by consultants and a RINO senator who was censured by his own party.

@ThomTillis is North Carolina’s @MittRomney. He supports red-flag laws and opposed Trump on border security. His elitist buddy, Bill Graham, is the Republican John Edwards who got rich from suing North Carolina farmers and business owners, and now thinks he can use the money he took from his fellow North Carolinians to buy a key to the governor’s mansion. Make no mistake, the establishment RINOs are out to get me. And let’s be clear why. They are going to say the same old line they always use: ‘He can’t win a general’. That’s simply false. The latest polling from

@ECU_CSR shows I’m the ONLY Republican candidate that can beat @JoshStein_ (I’m up 44-40 while Graham is losing 42-38). The real reason is they don’t like that I haven’t ‘paid my dues’. They don’t think that average people should be in government. They think that only the elites like themselves are qualified to serve, and that those seeking office need to be vetted by them and work their way up the ladder. Well news flash, it’s politicians who have brought our nation to a point of crisis, and I hope I’m never, ever seen as a politician. I am not running to make a name for myself, or to get rich. I can assure you no amount of money could make up for the constant attacks I face, the scrutiny my family and I are under, and the exhausting long days on the road. I am not a politician. I am a public servant who feels called to be a voice for the people of my state, and stand up for them. So while the RINO elites plot to take me down, I’ll continue to fight, and I’m honored I won’t be doing it alone. I have support from every faction of our party, including dozens of members in the General Assembly, and strong conservative leaders like Sen. @TedBuddNC and Congressman @danbishopnc. More importantly, I have the people with me. Thousands of volunteers have joined our campaign and have sacrificed their weekends to campaign for us at festivals, parades, and events all across the state. Tens of thousands have given $100 or less to contribute what they can to help us in our movement. So make no mistake, the RINOs won’t stop, but neither will I. Bring it on

On the opposite side of the aisle, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, faces Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan. A Meredith Poll released in September has Stein with a 3-to-1 lead over Morgan.

Mark Robinson responds to Thom Tillis endorsing Bill Graham

Two Libertarians have also tossed their hats in the ring: Shannon Bray and Mike Ross.

Bray only recently returned to the campaign trail “following the successful resolution of trials stemming from his arrests in August on assault and Marijuana possession charges.” According to CBS17, Bray was arrested in mid-August and charged with assault on a female and communicating threats after his wife petitioned the magistrate. The next day, Bray’s wife told officers he had returned to the home, where marijuana and growing equipment were found.

As of Friday, four candidates have filed to run. Morgan, Chrelle Booker and Marcus Williams have filmed on the Democratic side, and only Folwell has filed on the Republican side. The candidate filing period ends at noon on Friday, Dec. 15.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply