(North Carolina) – Jesse Thomas, a retired health insurance executive who had announced a run for governor in 2024 as a Republican, told supporters Wednesday he's dropping out and will run instead for secretary of state.
Jesse Thomas, a retired health insurance executive who had announced a run for governor in 2024 as a Republican, told supporters Wednesday that he's dropping out of that race.
Thomas said he'll now run for secretary of state instead. That office is in charge of overseeing business registrations, charities and lobbying in North Carolina, and it has been held by Democrat Elaine Marshall for nearly three decades.
"I will advance our business systems to the cutting edge of modernization," Thomas said in his announcement, criticizing Marshall for remaining in office too long. Two other Republicans, Chad Brown and Darren Eustance, have also announced plans to run for secretary of state next year.
Thomas' decision comes as the GOP primary to replace Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper — who is term-limited and can't seek reelection — is taking shape. Thomas' announcement comes on the heels of two other major shifts in the 2024 GOP gubernatorial field.
Bill Graham, a Salisbury lawyer, announced he'll join the race for governor and plans to spend at least $5 million of his own money.
Mark Walker, a former U.S. Representative from the Greensboro area, announced he's dropping out of the race for governor and will seek instead to return to Congress. Republican state lawmakers redrew the districts last month to turn what's currently a heavily Democratic seat into a new district that will heavily favor a Republican.
The front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor in 2024 is Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who in 2020 rode his viral online fame from a gun rights speech to become the state's first Black lieutenant governor. Robinson has a history of making derogatory statements about Jewish people, women, LGBTQ people and other groups but has a strong following among evangelical Christians.
His Republican opponents have sought to cast Robinson as too extreme to win a general election, despite his broad support among the GOP base.
In addition to Graham, other Republicans running against Robinson for governor include State Treasurer Dale Folwell of Winston-Salem and former state Sen. Andy Wells of Hickory.
Folwell was a high-ranking Republican state lawmaker before his first election as treasurer in 2016. Wells came in second to Robinson in the 2020 GOP primary for lieutenant governor.
On the Democratic side the primary election for governor, Attorney General Josh Stein — endorsed by Cooper and widely seen as the party favorite — is squaring off against former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan.