Josh Stein Wins Democratic Primary for North Carolina Governor

Josh Stein, the North Carolina attorney general, handily won the state’s Democratic primary for governor on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, setting the stage for a matchup with a fiery Republican rival in a race that will be tightly contested and closely watched.

The race will probably be the most expensive in the country this year outside of the presidential election, as Democrats try to retain a governor’s office that they have held for all but four of the last 31 years, a rare Southern stronghold for the party.

Mr. Stein, 57, who was endorsed by Gov. Roy Cooper, a term-limited Democrat, easily defeated his four primary opponents, including Michael Morgan, a former North Carolina Supreme Court justice.

Now Mr. Stein, who has presented himself as a stable and experienced leader, will turn his attention to his opponent, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. The attorney general has cast Mr. Robinson as an extreme figure distracted by culture war issues.

Mr. Stein has highlighted a number of statements that Mr. Robinson has come under heavy criticism for making in recent years, including that Christians are “called to be led by men,” not women, and that “there’s no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth.”

“Some politicians spark division, ignite hate and fan the flames of bigotry,” Mr. Stein said in a campaign ad that showed clips of Mr. Robinson.

Mr. Robinson has dismissed the criticism while doubling down on anti-L.G.B.T.Q. remarks and painting Mr. Stein as an extreme liberal.

Political science professors in North Carolina say that Mr. Stein will have an easy time portraying Mr. Robinson as a Trump-aligned Republican who would further roll back abortion rights. A big question is which candidate will benefit more from the huge influx of voters the state has seen over the last few years; many have settled in the suburbs and exurbs of Charlotte and Raleigh. President Biden won the counties that contain those cities in 2020 but lost many of the surrounding areas to Donald J. Trump.

A native of Chapel Hill who has degrees from Dartmouth and Harvard, Mr. Stein became the first Jewish person elected to statewide office in North Carolina in 2016 when he defeated Buck Newton, a Republican, to become attorney general. He previously served as a state senator.

His re-election victory in 2020, however, showed how slim his margins could be: He won by fewer than 14,000 votes that year, with 50.1 percent of the vote. Mr. Trump won the state in 2020 by 1.3 percentage points, and Mr. Cooper by more than 4 percentage points.

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