"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Josh Stein pitches his vision for North Carolina

The Attorney General and Democratic nominee for Governor virtually sat down with student publications across the state to discuss his priorities for the state
“Stein is set to face off against Republican Lt. Governor Mark Robinson, whose inflammatory rhetoric has made the race one of the most closely watched going into the fall.” (Courtesy of Josh Stein for North Carolina)

On Friday, March 22, the Old Gold & Black alongside several other student publications, were invited to sit down virtually with North Carolina Attorney General and Democratic nominee for Governor Josh Stein. 

Stein became the Democratic nominee for Governor earlier in March, running to succeed the current governor, Governor Roy Cooper, who is at the end of his allotted two terms. 

Stein is set to face off against Republican Lt. Governor Mark Robinson, whose inflammatory rhetoric has made the race one of the most closely watched going into the fall. Stein says that when voters compare his and Robinson’s competing visions for the state, the difference is “stark.”  

He cited previous statements in which Robinson describes members of the  LGBTQ+ community as ‘filth’ and a sermon where he compared them to “what the cows leave behind” and “maggots.” 

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After Stein gave opening remarks, student publications were able to ask Stein questions about this campaign and platform. The Old Gold & Black asked about Stein’s response to Leandro vs. N.C. — a landmark public education state case that the new Republican-majority North Carolina Supreme Court re-heard elements of in February. 

Leandro affirmed the right to a “sound basic education” for children in the state. Decades later, unsatisfied with the state’s compliance in promoting that right, the N.C. Supreme Court ordered the legislature to adopt elements of the Comprehensive Remedial Plan, or “Leandro Plan,” in 2021. 

The ambitious “Leandro Plan” requires over $5 billion in spending for public schools through 2028. But the legislature has failed to keep up the pace. The state’s high court once again ordered the funds transfer in 2022 — but the court’s ideological makeup was changed soon after, as a Republican majority took control of the court. 

Republican Senate President Phil Berger and Speaker of the House Tim Moore took the case back to court, arguing the legislature alone has discretion over education spending. 

Now, the Leandro funding hangs in the balance. 

The Old Gold & Black asked Stein how he as Governor would respond if Leandro was overturned. He expressed his frustration that the plan was back in court again, arguing that the decision had already been affirmed and the money was ready to be spent. 

“Right now we as a state are underfunding all of that,” Stein said. “And in essence undermining the quality of public education being delivered in North Carolina. We are No. 49 in the country in what we spend on K-12 as a share of our state’s economy, which is a disgrace. We’re No. 46 in starting teachers pay – lower than every neighboring state.” 

He continued: “The pay is not adequate. So Leandro is a great opportunity for us to do right by the students. My office was part of negotiating the resolution along with the governor and plaintiffs to come up with this comprehensive plan. That is billions of dollars over an eight year period of time. It can get North Carolina back up to where it needs to be, and we can recruit and retain excellent teachers and fill all the necessary other school personnel staffing shortages that we need to, and it matters.” 

Mental Health 

Last week, The Old Gold & Black alongside eight other collegiate newsrooms published “A Statewide Issue,” a collaborative reporting project unpacking the mental health crisis endured by young North Carolinians across the state. 

UNC Charlotte’s Niner Times, a partner in that project, asked the Attorney General about how his administration will prioritize mental health both on the state and university levels. 

Stein highlighted his record as Attorney General, launching lawsuits against Juul, Meta and other companies he said enabled anxiety and depression among young people. He explained that the mental health crisis is a symptom of a broader need for more investment in public education.  

“I talked in my last answer about public education and the deficiency of the state’s investment in social workers and nurses and counselors and our high schools,” Stein said. “We’ve got to connect with young people where they are to help them deal with the stresses of life.” 

He also celebrated Governor Cooper’s expansion of medicare coverage in 2023 as a vital part of his mission to combat the state’s mental health challenges. 

“We not only delivered or made available health care to 600,000 North Carolinians who didn’t have health insurance — which by the way that helps them pay for health care, including mental health care — but unlocked $1.6 billion incentive payment from the federal government, which the Department of Health and Human Services and the legislature have allocated towards mental health because we do not have an adequate mental health care system in the state,” Stein said. 


Another significant issue the state faces, housing, was featured prominently in the discussion. 

North Carolina is experiencing an explosion of economic growth driven by high-profile investments from the manufacturing and tech sectors. In 2023, CNBC ranked North Carolina as the best state for business for the second consecutive year. 

At the same time, home prices are increasing year-over-year in North Carolina by 5.6%. And in terms of low-income affordable housing, city governments across the state are struggling to keep up — especially in Winston-Salem.

This month will mark the first time in two years that Winston-Salem has opened up low-income Section 8 housing vouchers for enrollment. The city currently estimates they are short 16,000 units. 

“We have got to increase the supply of housing, and when I say increase the supply of housing I mean of every kind: single-family housing, duplexes, triplexes, condominiums, apartments, high-end apartments, medium-end departments and low-end apartments,” Stein said.

Stein says that the state can and should be doing more to encourage local governments to prioritize housing construction. 

“They are the ones who have zoning requirements,” he said. “They’re the ones who have set the rules for construction in their communities. And what I want is for the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency to have a chunk of money that goes to local governments that incentivize the construction of more and varied types of housing.”

Though it hasn’t been a full month since “Super Tuesday,” North Carolina’s election season has already proven a busy one – especially with the state’s Republican-favored district maps still embroiled in ongoing litigation. Stein says that when you crunch the numbers, there’s more that unites us than divides. Gerrymandering, he says, attempts to convince us otherwise and incentivizes extremism. 

“The legislature can engage in abusive, egregious partisan gerrymandering, and there’s nothing that the state constitution can do about it. That is a real problem. Because what gerrymandering does is it drives people to their extreme because you’re not worried about losing a general election in a competitive election,” Stein said. 

“There are a lot of people of different parties who see the world similarly and find opportunities for compromise. Today in Congress, there is zero.” 

The Old Gold & Black will be reaching out to candidates, including Robinson, for similar interviews ahead of the 2024 election.

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About the Contributor
James Watson
James Watson, Arts & Culture Editor
James Watson is a sophomore from Wilmington, N.C. who plans on majoring in politics and international affairs and minoring in classical studies. Outside of OGB, James is heavily involved in state and local politics and the director of Deacs Decide on campus. A host on Wake Radio, James loves the sound of his own voice. He is also a serial tweeter.

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    I.M. AnalumApr 3, 2024 at 1:52 pm

    Do political opponents/other candidates get equal time and exposure too, whether they are agreed with or not, or is it all just a one-sided marketing and echo chamber stuff with the OG&B now like it is at most colleges?

    • A

      AnonApr 7, 2024 at 8:47 pm

      I am sure that if the Robinson Campaign chose to hold a sit down with student publications across N.C., the OGB (and other student newspapers across the state) would write about it. To my knowledge, he has not held one.