RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)– After saying no to the upcoming Republican primary debate, former congressman Mark Walker said he will now participate.
Walker’s original decision came when Lt. Governor Mark Robinson declined the invitation to face off with the other men running to be North Carolina’s next governor. Governor Roy Cooper, a democrat, is not eligible to run again due to term limits. The election has already become a contentious race between two people who at one time supported each other.
“You need to vote for somebody that you see. Somebody that’s not hiding in the basement. Hiding from everybody.” Those were Mark Robinson’s words just last year, calling out now U.S. Senator Ted Budd for choosing to not debate.
The video of those remarks was taken by former congressman Mark Walker, who was running against Budd and who Robinson was campaigning for. Some might say the tables have turned. Walker and Robinson are now running against each other for governor, and now it’s Robinson who won’t debate.
“I think his chance of participating in debates is fairly low but Walker may need a game changer. It’s the idea that many voters are not aware of who these people are, and so anytime you can get your message out in front of voters in a positive way, that’s an opportunity,” said Meredith College political scientist David McLennan.
In a statement Walker said “Mark Robinson’s silence is deafening. He has nothing to say on the budget, nothing to say on legislation, and now nothing to say at our debate. If he won’t speak up after three years in Raleigh, he won’t do so in the future.”
Jonathan Bridges, Walker’s campaign manager added, “Congressman Walker has reconsidered his attendance because North Carolinians deserve to hear from the top two candidates for Governor on policy differences, qualifications to lead, and who is the strongest candidate to win. Hopefully, Mr. Robinson won’t be another jelly-back politician.”
The “jelly-back” politician reference is from Robinson’s own words when he spoke about Ted Budd’s absence on the debate stage.
Current state treasurer Dale Folwell is also running in the Republican primary. In a statement, Treasurer Folwell said, “Lt. Governor Robinson has been the most absent elected state official in my time in Raleigh. He has a track record of missing work on the taxpayer’s dime. You need to show to show up for the job interview to be the CEO of the biggest business in the state.”
Western Carolina political scientist Chris Cooper believes it’s the voter who ends up on the losing side when candidates say no to debating.
“Now, in a general election, so what? You sort of know where the Democrats stand, you know where the Republicans stand. But, in a primary, where ideologically there’s not a lot of difference between these candidates, I think it really could affect some voter’s decisions. And I think it’s probably a bad thing for North Carolina democracy,” said Cooper.
Robinson’s campaign has not responded to CBS 17’s request for comment.
There are two upcoming debates scheduled.
The Wake County GOP is hosting the Cary debate at Macgreggor Downs Country Club on Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 6 p.m.. The second debate is in Charlotte at Maggiano’s at Southpark Mall, on Sept. 13 at 11:30 a.m. and is hosted by the Republican Women of Greater Charlotte.