SALISBURY, N.C. (WNCN) — A conservative attorney and businessman is throwing his hat in the ring for the North Carolina gubernatorial race and is investing $5 million of his own money in the contest.
Bill Graham, of Salisbury, announced Wednesday that he is running for governor in the 2024 Republican primary.
“I’m running to win a conservative future for North Carolina,” Graham said. “We need a conservative governor who shows up for work and will rescue this state from liberals like Roy Cooper and Josh Stein. I’m the only Republican who will do that.”
Graham will begin advertising on statewide television on Oct. 26. Graham has already begun reserving airtime through the remainder of 2023, according to a news release.
Graham, a former prosecutor, is a partner at the law firm Wallace & Graham. He began his career in politics as a staffer for the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms and previously served on the board of the Helms Center.
He unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2008.
Graham joins a Republican field currently led in the polls by Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. Other candidates include State Treasurer Dale Folwell, former Congressman Mark Walker, former State Sen. Andy Wells, and former health care executive Jesse Thomas.
None of those other candidates appear to have gained any traction, as a poll released by the John Locke Foundation last week showed almost half of the Republican primary voters support Robinson while no other candidate got above 5 percent support.
“The other candidates don’t seem to be raising or spending money at this time, here’s someone who’s coming in late but is going to put his money where his mouth is,” said David McLennan, an expert on state politics at Meredith College. “(Graham) knows what it takes to run statewide. And, I think, this is not some vanity project where someone who has never run for office is saying I can do this. This is someone who has some experience.”
McLennan said while Graham is committing a significant amount of money to the race, Robinson still has the backing of former President Donald Trump, which he said could be a “significant barrier” to other candidates.
But, McLennan also noted concern among some Republicans that Robinson’s history of making offensive statements about Jews, LGBTQ people and others make it more difficult for him to win in a general election.
“I think there’s concern about Robinson, a lot of his statements, a lot of his behaviors, could cause them to lose the state in a year that should be a pretty good year for Republicans,” he said.
Robinson spoke about the race with CBS 17 on Wednesday and made clear he will not debate the other Republicans in the race. He’s already declined opportunities to do that.
“Absolutely not. I’m not interested in going on stage and arguing with people who I’ve agreed with in the past. What I’m interested in is going out and talking to the people of North Carolina and presenting my vision of how I want to help them succeed,” he said. “You know, I’m not gonna waste my time with people who want to dredge up old things out of my past or want to dredge up bad memories from my past.”
Attorney General Josh Stein and former state Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan are running for the Democratic nomination.
Devon Cruz, a spokesperson for the Democratic Governors Association released a statement Wednesday, saying, “As Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson continues to spew dangerous rhetoric and push antisemitic conspiracies, North Carolina’s GOP gubernatorial primary grows to six, as yet another out of touch candidate looks to capitalize on concerns about their frontrunner’s toxic record.”