RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – The Republican who most feel is the frontrunner for the party’s nomination to succeed Gov. Roy Cooper in 2024 will take to a big political stage on Monday as the respondent to Cooper’s final “State of the State” speech.

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the Greensboro native, announced Thursday that he would be the person who speaks in rebuttal to Cooper’s assessment of the accomplishments of the state. Even Robinson’s comment sounded like a harbinger of a yet-unannounced bid for the governor’s mansion.

North Carolina Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson speaks at a Senate Education Committee hearing on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh, N.C. Robinson is facing calls to resign from elected officials and LGBTQ advocacy groups over comments he made in June in which he criticized teachings in K-12 public schools and likened peoples' sexual orientation to “filth.” (AP Photo/Bryan Anderson)
North Carolina Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (AP Photo/Bryan Anderson)

“It is my honor to represent Republicans in the upcoming response to Governor Cooper’s State of the State Address,” a release from Robinson’s staff said. “I look forward to highlighting the great work we have done for the people of North Carolina, and the vision we have moving forward.”

Cooper will address the joint meeting of the state House and Senate at 7 p.m., and Robinson’s remarks will follow on the live feed of the address. The speech usually happens in odd-numbered years.

Cooper is completing his second term and is barred from running for re-election. Only Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, has announced formally that he would seek the Democratic nomination.

But Robinson, who rose to political prominence after he addressed the Greensboro City Council in 2018 about gun rights in a video that went viral, has been widely expected to seek the job and even has hinted at that in remarks in the past few months. One early poll shows him clearly the favorite.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (Julia Wall/The News & Observer via AP)

He also published last fall a memoir, titled “We Are the Majority: The Life and Passions of a Patriot,” and he has spoken at many national rallies, including this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

Robinson is known for his take-no-prisoners position on a variety of volatile topics, including the LGBTQ community, gun rights, abortion rights – including remarks this week – climate change and public education, to name a few. He also has been an active supporter of former President Donald Trump.

All members of the General Assembly, the Council of State (heads of cabinet-level state agencies both elected and appointed) and members of the North Carolina Supreme Court are invited to attend Cooper’s speech.

NC House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland)
NC Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden)

Usually the opposing party’s response has been delivered by the leaders in the General Assembly. After Cooper’s address in 2021, that response was delivered by House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), who at the time was thought to be a candidate for Congress in 2022. (Moore decided against a run when the district was redrawn to favor a Democratic candidate).

In 2019 the rebuttal was delivered by Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Eden), but Berger told The News & Observer on Monday that he wasn’t taking that role this year, which led to speculation that Robinson would get the nod. Berger also rebutted Cooper’s first speech in 2017. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s final speech in 2015 was rebutted by House Minority Leader Larry Hall (D-Durham).

Robinson technically is part of the General Assembly – he ultimately presides over the Senate but votes only if there is a tie – but this nod could be seen as the party’s full-throated support of his candidacy.

Several other Republicans are said to be considering runs for governor, including former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro, State Treasurer Dale Folwell, Agriculture Secretary Steve Troxler and even U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis. EPA Chief Michael Regan has been speculated to join the Democratic field.