RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Whether you agree with Republican Lt. Governor Mark Robinson on the issues or not, his ability to capture an audience and catapult himself onto the national stage is undeniable. Especially for someone holding that specific elected seat.

“I think what Lt. Governor Robinson has shown people across North Carolina is that an inherently weak power office, an office that doesn’t have a whole lot of institutional authority can be used in ways that increases visibility and public awareness of the person and the office,” said Michael Bitzer, Catawba College professor of politics and history.

According to all polling, Robinson is the frontrunner in the Republican primary for North Carolina governor. On the Democratic side, the same is true for current state attorney general Josh Stein.

Bitzer has calculated sixteen declared candidates running for Robinson’s seat. Seven democrats and nine republicans. None of them are names with immediate statewide name recognition. Bitzer said to solve that it will take cash, the ability to make the news cycle and personality.

“And often times we see the politics of personality really kind of drive the politics of policy. Yes, policy is important, but the personalities surrounding those policy decisions are often times what gets the attention of the base voters in both parties,” Bitzer said.

Looking back to the 2000 election, there were just six candidates, over the years the needle moves very little until you reach 2020.

The candidate filing period for the statewide 2024 primary elections begins at noon on Monday, December 4, 2023, and ends at noon Friday, December 15, 2023. While 16 people have declared their candidacy, more could be added, or others could drop out before the deadline.

Bitzer said its likely there will be more candidates when you have an open seat which is the case in the upcoming election.  Combine that with a divisive and competitive political environment, we are ripe for an upcoming battle.

“It’s no wonder that literally everybody on both sides of the political aisle seems to be throwing their hat into the ring for Lt. Governor, particularly because this is often times a steppingstone to the top executive position, Governor,” said Bitzer.