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How Mark Robinson beat Bloomberg's billions to win North Carolina's second-highest office

Salena Zito on

As one of 10 children growing up in extreme poverty in Greensboro, North Carolina, Mark Robinson has defied a lot of odds in life: an alcoholic and abusive father, foster care stints and an overwhelmed single mother.

After joining the Army Reserves right out of high school, he married and had two children while drifting through various jobs making furniture, a profession that kept evaporating as each plant he worked for relocated to Mexico.

In 2018, he attended Greensboro's city council meeting to voice his frustration over the town's decision to ban a local gun show and found himself giving an off-the-cuff yet deeply impassioned speech. Despite not owning a gun at the time, Robinson argued for four minutes in defense of the Second Amendment and ended up garnering national attention. This year, with few resources and no electoral experience, Robinson became the first black lieutenant governor-elect of North Carolina.

"I didn't expect the reaction that I received from that speech," Robinson said. "I thought maybe a couple of friends would see it and that was about it. When it went viral ...?a lot of people encouraged me to get a radio show and things of that sort."

But he decided against courting fame, because "in order to affect real change, there's no better place to do that than in the political arena."

So, Robinson ran for lieutenant governor, and became the first black Republican to win a major seat in the state since the 1890s. He also earned more votes in his state than the two top Republicans on the ticket: President Donald Trump and Sen. Thom Tillis, and nearly as many as Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who will now have a member of the Republican Party as his second-in-command. If Cooper is successful in his rumored run for U.S. Senate in 2022, Robinson will ascend to the state's highest office.

 

Robinson's win is astounding for any number of reasons, but especially because he managed to beat the $8 million spent by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his state to take him out.

The funds came via the Beyond Carbon Victory Fund, an environmental justice campaign Bloomberg launched last year that boasts a $500 million budget dedicated to electing state and local candidates "who are climate champions."

In his upcoming role as the new lieutenant governor, Robinson will chair North Carolina's energy council.

On Bloomberg's bid to turn his ticket blue, Robinson is matter-of-fact.

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