Democratic NC Attorney General Josh Stein to run for governor

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein on Wednesday formally announced plans to run for governor — one of the first major campaign announcements for state office ahead of the 2024 election.

The decision sets the stage for a potential political battle focused on culture war issues and abortion rights in the state. Much of Stein’s video announcement focused on Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the presumed Republican front runner in this race.

“Some politicians want to tell you who you should hate, when you’ll be pregnant, and who you can marry,” the Democrat said in his announcement Wednesday. “I believe in a different North Carolina — and that the fights we choose determine what kind of state we’ll become.”

Folwell said in a text message after Stein’s announcement Wednesday that Republican primary voters “will have an option” next year. Spokespeople for Robinson didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is not able to run for governor in 2024 because of term limits. He praised Stein during a Wednesday morning interview but stopped short of endorsing him. So far Stein is the only known Democratic candidate for the office, but candidates don’t have to file with the State Board of Elections until December, leaving time for that to change.

Stein has been the state’s top law enforcement officer for six years. He has a sizable pile of campaign cash, raising more than $5 million over the last two years. He has nearly $4 million on hand now, according to his campaign.

In multiple interviews with WRAL News last year, Stein expressed a desire to run and said one of his main priorities will be defending access to abortion. The longtime Democrat made his views clear in an August news conference at the state’s Department of Justice office: “Politicians are playing with women’s lives,” Stein said. “Decisions about reproductive care are deeply personal. They should be made by a woman in consultation with her loved ones and her doctor. They should not be made by politicians.”

Right now abortion is legal in North Carolina up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy. Republican lawmakers will likely push to change that law during this year’s legislative session, and Cooper has promised to veto new restrictions.

During his 13-year political career as a lawmaker in the state Senate and as North Carolina’s top lawyer, Stein has played a leading role in a national lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, extended mail-in ballot collection times in the 2020 election, reduced the state’s testing backlog on sexual assault kits and is now eyeing the influence social media companies have on children.

“We’ll build a better and brighter North Carolina by standing together for what’s right, fighting to fix what’s wrong, and doing right by every single North Carolinian,” Stein said in his statement Wednesday.

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