Richmond Times-Dispatch: Salena Zito column: How Mark Robinson beat Bloomberg’s billions to win in N.C.

By Salena Zito
Richmond Times-Dispatch

As one of 10 children growing up in extreme poverty in Greensboro, N.C., 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.

“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 U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, and nearly as many as Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. 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.

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

At the same time, there is no denying that Bloomberg’s Goliath attempts to conquer every level of American politics this year fell to scores of Davids across the country — including Mark Robinson.

“I chuckled to myself about this on more than one occasion,” Robinson said. “Michael Bloomberg lives in an ivory tower in one of the greatest cities in the world. This guy has billions of dollars and here he is trying to take out little old Mark Robinson. It really is bizarre and if you wrote this as a movie, nobody would believe it. But here we are.”

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