North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest officially entered the race for governor on Saturday. His campaign held a kickoff rally at the fairgrounds annex in Winston-Salem.
In front of a large crowd, many holding red and white signs that said “Run Forest Run,” Forest said he'll pursue a new vision for the state based on economic and educational opportunity, human dignity and societal unity if he's elected governor next year.
“I think we have people who sit in opposite camps and lob volleys at one another and I think we need leaders to bring people together and that's what I want to do in this state,” says Forest. “I want to reach out to people who maybe don't think like me, maybe don't look like me, maybe don't act like me and pull them into the Forest camp and say 'hey let's work together for a better, more prosperous, more united North Carolina.'”
Forest says his experience in building relationships with lawmakers and community members makes him the best candidate for the job.
He also talked about some of his plans to grow the state's economy. He says aerospace is among the industries he would like to recruit more in the state.
“The world is getting smaller but competition is getting bigger. Every state in America and every country in the world are now competing for the same jobs. We're not winning the game because we aren't in the game,” Forest says.
Several people there said they like Forest for his Christian values and his support for educational choice options and small businesses.
“A lot of people like Dan. He's genuine. I like Dan because he's a Christian. He's dependable and he does what he says he will do," says Gene Peterson from Asheville.
“I know it might seem rare to see an African American conservative, but there are a lot of us out there and a lot of African American Republicans as well. As a whole, I think we have gotten linked into the Democratic party as the only option, but as they increasingly become anti-God, anti-Christian, they don't any longer line up with our values. It's leaving a lot of us shopping and so I'm here to support Dan Forest because I support his values,” says Danielle Robinson from Raleigh.
Forest is a Raleigh architect who was first elected lieutenant governor in 2012. He won re-election four years later and is the highest-ranking GOP executive branch official in North Carolina government since Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's 2016 victory.
Cooper is seeking re-election. According to a recent survey by the conservative think tank Civitas, Cooper holds a sizable lead against both Republican gubernatorial candidates in the race. State Rep. Holly Grange, a West Point graduate and U.S. Army veteran, announced her candidacy last month.
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