Vernon Robinson, a black conservative graduate of the Air Force Academy who serves as a Winston-Salem alderman, was top vote-getter in the first round of the Republican primary in North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District.
Robinson, who pulled 24%, now faces an August 17 runoff with State Sen. Virginia Foxx, who pulled 21%. Robinson was the most conservative candidate in the field.
Robinson has said he is proud his voting record has infuriated “government bureaucrats and the tax-and-spend junkies who create their jobs,” and has characterized his agenda as “pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment, pro-Ten Commandments.”
If nominated, he is likely to be elected: North Carolina’s 5th District, which GOP Rep. Richard Burr is giving up to run for the Senate, is strongly Republican. If elected, Robinson would become the first black Republican to represent a former Confederate state since Reconstruction.
Robinson’s outspoken conservatism has attracted platoons of passionate volunteers, including many Young Republicans and College Republicans. He ran radio spots featuring recordings of Bill Cosby’s much-publicized critique of why some black schoolchildren fail and said he taught his own children the very themes of hard work and self-reliance Cosby advocates.
In a development that attracted national attention, early Robinson backer Jack Kemp dropped his support when Robinson campaigned for strict enforcement of immigration laws. In one Robinson radio ad, the narrator said: “The aliens are coming and they’re not from spaceships” as the theme from the “Twilight Zone” played in the background. In the ad, Robinson vowed to “safeguard our borders, cut off all welfare, and, once and for all, make English the official language.”
Kemp switched his endorsement to businessman Edgar Broyhill, son of former Republican Sen. James T. Broyhill. Widely considered the front-runner, Broyhill took about 20%, finishing third.
Robinson told me he would not change his take-no-prisoners campaign style in the runoff with Foxx: “When you have someone who voted to increase taxes and fees more than 60 times during ten years in the senate and supports the ERA, that’s a sharp contrast with an unapologetic conservative.” Foxx has been endorsed by the left-wing North Carolina Association of Educators and was once legislative district coordinator for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Only two years ago she insisted that pro-ERA activism “is hardly a radical thing to have done in my opinion.”
Possibly the most poignant comment on Robinson came in a Winston-Salem Journal editorial: “Jesse Helms is back and this time he’s black.” (Robinson for Congress, P.O. Box 272, Winston-Salem, N.C. 27102; 336-794-0882; RobinsonForCongress.com)