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The articles from Inside Politics With Steve Harrison appear first in his weekly newsletter, which takes a deeper look at local politics, including the latest news on the Charlotte City Council, what's happening with Mecklenburg County's Board of Commissioners, the North Carolina General Assembly and much more.

If the phone rings before dawn, it must be Dale Folwell

Dale Folwell
Department of State Treasurer
North Carolina
Dale Folwell.

I interviewed state treasurer and 2024 candidate for governor Dale Folwell last week. After I sent an email to set up a time, Folwell called my cellphone the very next day.

At 6:27 a.m.

He had been up for a while.

We touched base later that morning, but had a bit of trouble setting up a Zoom. Folwell didn’t want to log on to the state of North Carolina’s Wi-Fi.

“I don’t think the people would want me to do that,” said Folwell, a certified public accountant who became treasurer in 2017.

We finally found a time when he would be at the North Carolina GOP headquarters.

No taxpayer-funded Wi-Fi.

No state computer.

Folwell is the first main Republican to announce their candidacy for governor for 2024. Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the favorite in early polling, is expected to announce he’s running on April 22.

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There could be others, like former Rep. Mark Walker. Or even GOP Sen. Thom Tillis.

But in a two-person race, polls show Robinson has a commanding lead in a GOP primary.

I was curious about how forceful Folwell will make electability a key part of his campaign.

Will he tell GOP voters: You may love Robinson, but are you willing to risk losing the general election to Democrat Josh Stein?

Robinson is an electrifying public speaker.

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson
North Carolina
North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.

But he has a history of inflammatory and hateful speech toward the LGBT community. WSOC-TV reported he did it again earlier this month in Mooresville when he said it “makes me sick” when he sees a church flying the rainbow flag. He added that’s a “direct spit in the face to God Almighty.”

Folwell didn’t fully take the bait, though he did nibble.

“I made this announcement because I think the voters are smarter than they get characterized for,” he said. “They want to be talked to like adults. They know the root word of governor is to govern.”

He continued: “What I will talk about is how do we attack problems without attacking people.”

And finally: “One thousand days ago no one had heard about our lieutenant governor, and you can come to your own conclusions about what he has said in the last 1,000 days. All he has been doing is campaigning and what I have been doing is the keeper of the public purse.”

It came up again when we talked about LGBT issues.

“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” Folwell said.

Then he added that “the blood that runs through me is Quaker,” and that one tenant of the Quaker religion is “to be fair and just.”

His closer: “I think there are ways to talk about these issues and look at these problems instead of attacking people. That’s where I will let Mark Robinson be who he is, and I will be who I have always been.”

Folwell was once a garbage collector and a mechanic. He served on the Forsyth School Board. He served for eight years in the state House, where Civitas ranked him as the most conservative member.

“I think the voters are going to look at who they want to be the CEO of the largest business in the state,” he said. “Who has the body of work that’s focused on saving lives, minds and money?”

Brunswick keeps booming

Last year, I wrote about how North Carolina Republicans keep winning statewide federal elections.

While media and pundits focus on the surge of progressive voters moving to Mecklenburg and Wake counties, most of the state’s fastest-growing counties are red.

Like Brunswick, next to Wilmington.

New census population estimates released Thursday show Brunswick is again North Carolina’s fastest-growing county, with a 5.7% growth rate from summer 2021 to summer 2022. It’s also the seventh fastest-growing county in the nation.

Brunswick now has 153,000 residents — up from 74,000 in 2000.

Brunswick County is North Carolina's oldest county. One in three residents is 65 or older.
Steve Harrison/WFAE
Brunswick County is North Carolina's oldest county. One in three residents is 65 or older.

Republican Ted Budd won the county by 28 percentage points over Democrat Cheri Beasley.

In fact, of the top 10 fastest-growing counties in the state by percentage, all 10 voted for Budd.

Of the top 20 fastest-growing counties, 16 voted for Budd. (Mecklenburg, Wake, New Hanover and Chatham voted for Beasley.)

Newsflash: Participation trophies also ruined Gen X

Three Republican state senators filed a bill last week that would bar local youth sports leagues run by a local government from awarding “participation trophies.”

WRAL has the story here.

The idea, of course, is that Gen Z is an infantile group, in part because they were given trophies for just showing up. This has forever corrupted their work ethic.

While not wading into that generational debate, I will add this: I turn 51 next month. I grew up in Louisiana, which is not exactly a progressive paradise.

Steve Harrison

I have two cardboard boxes of participation trophies from the late '70s and early '80s. Swimming. Soccer. Basketball.

This is not a new thing!

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.