Since Jim Gardner captured the lieutenant governor post for the GOP in 1988, the 2nd ranking post in state government has been pretty-well neutered. Since that time, the president pro tem — elected by the state senate majority — has run the show in that chamber.
Basically, all the lieutenant governor has at his or her disposal are some key state committee assignments and the bully pulpit that comes with the second-highest post in state government. Many had thought Mark Robinson — with his penchant for fiery campaign speeches — would use that bully pulpit well.
Since taking office, Robinson has had little to say about the important issues of the day being dealt with by the legislature and the governor. You’d occasionally run across a fiery speech about gays that Robinson had delivered to a church congregation or out-of-state fundraiser or conservative gathering.
During the hard-scrabble battle over the state budget that dominated politics from Murphy to Manteo, you heard not much more than crickets from the lieutenant governor’s office. There was plenty of red meat for Robinson to tear into with his great oratorical skills: medical marijuana, laws to protect children, sketchy land grabs, Medicaid expansion, further strengthening and centralization of government power, and casinos among others.
But the silence from Team Robinson was deafening. Could it have had something to do with the thousands of dollars his campaign took from gambling interests? Could it have had something to do with the fact his gubernatorial bid is being financed and run by many of the same people pushing so hard for casinos and that other “red meat” over on Jones Street?
After declining to comment on the proposed casino legislation, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the Republican frontrunner for governor in 2024, expressed his feelings on the proposal during a radio interview the day after it was removed from the budget.
The gambling proposal had been added to the budget despite pushback from Democrats and some Republicans and was among issues that stalled the passage of the budget for nearly three months
CBS17 reached out to Robinson’s office for comment on his position on the proposal before it was dropped from the budget on Tuesday and he declined to comment. The casino proposal and Medicaid expansion were briefly moved to a separate bill, but Medicaid was put back into the budget and the casino proposal was removed before the budget was passed on Friday.
On Tuesday night, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger confirmed that the expanded gambling proposal was being dropped from the budget.
On Wednesday, Robinson spoke on the “KC O’Dea Show” and briefly touched on his feelings on the proposal.
“I’m not in favor of gambling at all,” Robinson said in part, elaborating that, although he has been in casinos for conferences, he’s against gambling and would advise any young person who asked him to avoid gambling or playing the lottery. “That is not the type of industry that I’d like to see come to North Carolina. I’m making that perfectly plain, that is, that is what I believe. That’s not what I’m in favor of.”
He also expressed his opposition to Medicaid expansion during the interview, stating “the only thing in the budget that I’m still a little dismayed with that we’ve passed is Medicaid expansion.
Robinson says he isn’t against the Lumbee Tribe putting a casino on tribal lands, but he referred to how residents in the three counties designated for casinos made their voices heard in opposition to the legislation.
“That issue may come up again, and we can have that fight again,” he said.
Other politicians have been public in their feelings about the legislation. One of Robinson’s primary opponents, former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro, has organized community events and Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page, a candidate to replace Robinson, has been a “leading” opponent of the proposal.
On Friday morning, Robinson released a reaction to the passage of the budget, though he did not mention Medicaid or casinos, saying in part that he applauds the Republican lawmakers for passing a “fiscally responsible budget.”