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(WASHINGTON) — The North Carolina gubernatorial race is shaping up to be one of the most competitive and closely-watched face-offs in the battleground state. Leading candidates with polar opposite views are vying for the executive mansion seat in a race that could serve as a precedent for voters’ choices in the polling booth for the November general election, particularly on the federal level.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is set to take on a crowded Democratic field all vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Republican front-runner Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson has become a favorite among conservatives during his campaign. Should the two opponents win their primaries on Super Tuesday and compete in November, it will be a historic election with the potential for the first Jewish or Black leader of the state.

The governor’s race could signal North Carolinians’ priorities for the general election.

In 11 of the last 13 presidential elections, Republicans have won in the swing state. The traditionally purple state continued its red-leaning streak in the 2020 general election with Trump winning by a small margin over Biden (fewer than 75,000 votes).

North Carolina has become more competitive with diverse population growth. According to the 2020 U.S. census, North Carolina’s overall population has added more than 900,000 new residents in more than a decade with African-Americans (about 12 percent), Hispanic (about 18 percent) and multiracial residents leading the growth. With votes up for grabs, both Democrats and Republicans are targeting the swing state in the 2024 election season.

Democratic primary race

On the Democratic side, Stein has a host of opponents: former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Michael Morgan; Tryon, North Carolina, City Councilwoman Chrelle Booker; former Princeville, North Carolina Police Chief Gary Foxx; and attorney Marcus Williams.

Democrats are bracing for a tough fight to keep the governor’s seat blue. Since the GOP holds control over both chambers of the state’s legislature, Democrats are trying to avoid a GOP trifecta.

Outgoing, term-limited Gov. Roy Cooper is hoping to pass the torch on to Stein. Cooper endorsed Stein as his next potential successor, saying he “leads with integrity and grit.”

“Term limits prevent me from running again,” Cooper said in an endorsement video released in September last year. “But I know he will double down on the progress that we’ve made.”

Stein, who grew up in Chapel Hill and Charlotte, is an Ivy-League graduate of both Harvard University and Dartmouth College. He is also the son of a prominent civil rights attorney.

Stein succeeded Cooper as attorney general and has served in the position since 2017. He was previously a state senator and prior to that, he worked as a campaign manager and deputy chief of staff for Sen. John Edwards.

Stein advocates for consumer protection, environmental rights, fighting the opioid epidemic and defending women’s rights to reproductive health access.

In a campaign video, Stein criticized his Republican rivals for previous remarks on LGBTQ+ rights and attempts to limit access to women’s reproductive health care.

“I’m running for governor because I believe in a very different North Carolina,” Stein said in a campaign video. “One rooted in our shared values of freedom, justice and opportunity for everyone.”

Republican primary race

In contrast, Stein’s likely opponent Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson has enjoyed conservatives’ support. He ardently defends Second Amendment rights, law enforcement and supports restrictions on abortion.

At a Greensboro rally on Saturday, former President Donald Trump endorsed Robinson and referred to him as “Martin Luther King on steroids.”

Robinson, currently the state’s leading GOP candidate for governor in 2024, tells a story of humble beginnings. A Greensboro native, he was raised as one of 10 children and grew up in poverty. He worked in manufacturing for several years before losing his jobs that he blames the North American Free Trade Agreement for eliminating. He gained name recognition in 2018 for a viral speech he gave to the Greensboro City Council defending gun rights. He made history in 2021 by becoming the first Black lieutenant governor of North Carolina.

In the Republican primary, Robinson will face off against State Treasurer Dale Folwell and attorney Bill Graham for votes on Super Tuesday.

Robinson has received criticism from opponents Folwell and Graham along with others for a history of controversial statements and antisemitic remarks.

He has also been criticized for his harsh views on LGBTQ+ rights.

“We’re going to defend women in this state,” he said during a campaign rally in Cary, North Carolina. “That means if you’re a man on Friday night and all of the sudden on Saturday, you feel like a woman and you want to go in the women’s bathroom in the mall, you will be arrested — or whatever we got to do to you.”

The Democratic Governors Association has expressed concerns over the potential impact of Robinson’s nomination as the Republican candidate for governor.

“Mark Robinson is a dangerous extremist who wants to completely ban abortion without exceptions, dismantle public education, and roll back access to affordable health care for hundreds of thousands of working North Carolinians,” a DGA spokesperson told ABC News in a statement. “North Carolinians deserve a governor who will protect their fundamental freedoms and make life better for working families — not Mark Robinson’s toxic brand of extremism.”

Final push for support

Despite their stark differences, Stein and Robinson share something in common as they both could make history if they win their respective primaries and advance to the November election. Stein could become the first Jewish governor and Robinson could become the first Black governor of North Carolina.

Two other candidates, Mike Ross and Shannon Bray will also face-off in the Libertarian Party primary on Tuesday.

In a final push to garner support for both sides this past weekend, several prominent political figures including Vice President Kamala Harris, former president Trump and Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley visited North Carolina, hosting rallies with local voters ahead of Super Tuesday.

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