JUSTICE MIKE MORGAN
“CONSIDERING” 2024 RUN
FOR NC GOVERNOR
By Cash Michaels
The 2024 race for N.C. governor has just gotten more interesting.
Michael R. Morgan, also known as "Mike" Morgan, one of two African American Democratic justices on the NC Supreme Court, is considering a run to become the state’s next governor after he steps down from the bench in coming months, according to the NC Insider state news service.
Gov. Roy Cooper, who cannot run for a third term, would appoint someone to serve out the rest of Morgan’s term should he step down before it officially ends in 2024.
If Justice Morgan were to win the 2024 Democratic gubernatorial primary, he would likely face Black conservative Republican, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, in the general election, setting up an historic battle for the Governor’s Mansion.
In his first state office race in 2016, Morgan defeated a Republican judicial incumbent and won his N.C. High Court seat by 2,157,927 votes, taking a majority of North Carolina counties, so he knows how to run in a statewide campaign.
He is one of several seasoned, well-qualified Black Democratic possible candidates for governor who could energize Black Democratic voters in 2024, first mentioned in a Black Press analysis published on June 2nd.
In a June 28th phone interview with the NC Insider, the contents of which have been confirmed for this report, Justice Morgan, 67, said that when his term expires next year, he may very well enter the Democratic primary to challenge previously announced 2024 gubernatorial candidate state Attorney General Josh Stein.
Stein, who grew up in Charlotte and Chapel Hill, announced his candidacy early last January in hopes that no other Democrat would enter the race. Serving his second term as state Atty. General, Stein has strong support with white Democratic progressives, particularly those who are against the Republican-led legislature’s recent 12-week abortion restrictions.
Despite that support, Justice Morgan told the NC Insider that “…many inside North Carolina’s Democratic circles are calling on him to run in next year’s primary election.”
“I’ve been asked, quite frankly, to look at the race for governor,” Morgan said. “And while I highly respect the declared candidate (Stein) for the Democratic nomination for governor, I feel inclined to respect the calls that I’m getting.”
Morgan, who has been an associate justice of the state Supreme Court for the past seven years, continued that his final decision on whether to run or not would be based on what kind of support he can muster for a campaign.
“And, of course, whether I’d be able to raise the requisite funds in the requisite time to be a formidable candidate,” he said.
Morgan acknowledged that based on the support he hopes to get, his candidacy would make a difference.
“I believe it would enhance the chances of the Democrats,” he told the NC Insider. “I believe that should I enter the race I would be a strong voice that would be in a position to not only be the best qualified for the position, but I would be in the best position to defeat the current leading Republican candidate. I would be able to concentrate on matters and articulate matters in a way that would be more convincing and more persuasive, to have the Democrats enjoy victory and to maintain the governor position.”
And if he were successful in a primary run against Stein, Justice Morgan made clear that he’s under no illusions as to who the Republican’s likely candidate, Mark Robinson, is, and the kind of controversial, right-wing rhetoric many say he represents.
“There are some disturbing voices that want to lead our state in a direction that’s backward, downward and wayward,” Morgan said. “... If I would decide to run, it would strengthen our party going forward to the 2024 race and it would strengthen our ability to keep the governorship in a responsible leader’s hands.”
There is still plenty of time for other Democrats to join the 2024 gubernatorial race, so anything can happen between now and the March 5, 2024 primary. In the meantime, Justice Morgan will have to retire from the state Supreme Court, put together a campaign team, and begin raising money for both a primary run, and possible November 2024 general election bid.
Also in that time, Morgan would have to decide how he would campaign against fellow Democrat Stein. Both men are accomplished attorneys who know how to frame effective legal arguments. But a Democratic primary would call on Morgan and Stein to attempt to fire up the Democratic base, meaning that they would have to learn how to perform outside of the legal setting, and be able speak plainly about the issues North Carolinians care about the most.
Supporters of Stein feel he can speak to the concerns women across the state have regarding their loss of abortion rights at the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court and the NC General Assembly. Those supporters predict that women will drive the 2024 elections.
Justice Morgan may be able to tap into the tremendous outrage over last week’s consequential U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down affirmative action in college admissions, in addition to recent controversial decisions by the Republican-led NC Supreme Court, and the NC General Assembly’s restrictions on voting rights.
Both men could address standard concerns about the rising cost of living, the need for affordable housing and health care, and other standard campaign issues primary voters would care about.
The eldest of five children, Justice Morgan is a native of New Bern in Eastern North Carolina, where his late father, Leander "Lee" Morgan, Sr. - New Bern’s first Black mayor - was elected three times. His mother, Barbara Rivers Morgan, was the first African American woman elected to the merged New Bern - Craven County School Board.
With a strong personal and professional history of achievement, Justice Morgan is an alumnus of Duke University and North Carolina Central University School of Law, and has served as an administrative law judge, a District Court judge in Wake County, and a Superior Court judge, before his Supreme Court election in 2016.
In that election, then Superior Court Judge Morgan defeated 16-year Republican Associate Justice Robert Edmunds with over 54 percent of the statewide vote, giving the seven-member state Supreme Court a Democratic majority for the first time since the 1998 elections.
“With the incredibly good fortune to be the only person ever in NC to serve in four different judgeships over my 34 years of judicial service, I shall not seek to be reelected in 2024 as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina,” Justice Morgan said in a statement in May.
If Morgan were to succeed in winning the 2024 Democratic primary, he would likely face the most popular Republican gubernatorial candidate currently in Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. But Robinson will have to defeat two primary opponents first in state Treasurer Dale Folwell, and former Sixth District Congressman Mark Walker.
Robinson, a recent graduate of UNC-Greensboro, and best known for his fiery MAGA, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-abortion rights rhetoric, recently endorsed former Pres. Donald Trump for reelection. In turn, Trump has endorsed his candidacy, giving Robinson entree to Trump's MAGA supporters across the state.
HIGH COURT’S AFFIRMATION ACTION
RULING JUST THE BEGINNING OF MORE
LEGAL AND LEGISLATIVE CHALLENGES
By Cash Michaels
Shortly after the conservative-led U.S. Supreme Court delivered its groundshaking 6-3 decision last week striking down racial affirmative action in college admissions policies at UNC-Chapel Hill and other predominately-white institutions across the nation, many African Americans on social media chimed in, “No problem. We’ll just send more of our kids to HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities)!”
Just one problem.That history-changing ruling isn’t going to stop with just college admissions. When those Black students graduate from HBCUs, they are going to need to find jobs in the public and private sector.
Last week’s affirmative action decision was narrowly tailored for academic admissions, so it can’t be used directly to govern employment, contractual or program situations.
But Forbes Magazine warned last week that “…the decision will have a “chilling effect” on businesses that will grow concerned about lawsuits against diverse hiring practices and initiatives to improve diversity.”
Cedric Powell, a law professor at Howard University, told Newsweek Magazine, "There'll be implications in employment law. There'll be implications in other areas of education. There'll just be widespread implications.”
"One of the things the court does is plant little time bombs that will explode later on," Powell continued. "Today, we're ostensibly talking about education. But there is a spillover effect, for example, in government contract set-asides for minority businesses [because] they exclude whites who want to participate. It's an example of reverse discrimination. So we need to review and overturn all public contracts. Same thing with employment. A white plaintiff says, 'Well, yeah, I didn't get the job. You're considering race and that's reverse discrimination.' I see a whole onslaught of more emboldened plaintiffs articulating reverse discrimination claims."
Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, one of three liberal Supreme Court justices who defended affirmative action, confronted lawyers for opponents during arguments last October, saying, “If the court determines that any benefit or preference based on race is unconstitutional, the impact would radiate far beyond elite colleges…. the court could gut a half century of programs and laws designed to help groups that have historically faced racial discrimination in the U.S. that leveled the playing field, giving them greater access to education that might improve job opportunities and economic equality. At risk beyond preferences in college admissions: government programs that require a certain percentage of contracts go to minority-owned companies. Scholarships and financial aid based on race or ethnicity. Hiring practices at private companies aimed at recruiting underrepresented groups. Race-specific outreach by social services agencies. Even hate crime laws could be in peril.”
According to the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal, the day of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, “Assembly Speaker Robin Vos indicated Republicans will move to repeal state laws and programs based on race - including a state run scholarship program for students of color.”
What the Republican legislature in Milwaukee is just starting to do, GOP lawmakers in
North Carolina began doing two years ago.
In 2021, NC Senate leader Phil Berger introduced Senate Bill 729 - the Public Nondis-
crimination Amendment to the North Carolina Constitution to prohibit consideration of race,
sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in public employment, public contracting and public education.
The bill was referred to committee, but never made it out to go for a final vote.
NC Republicans could try again to pass it, and place the measure on a public referendum.
A bipartisan bill (HB 833) to expand teaching opportunities for "male minority" teachers using state funds in North Carolina, could now be on the chopping block. Republican lawmakers have already outlawed the teaching of critical race theory (HB 324), only to have Gov. Roy Cooper veto the law. Now that they have a super-majority in both legislative chambers, they can try again and override.
And last February, the Republican-led UNC Board of Governors voted to eliminate all diversity, equity and inclusion statements and compelled speech from admission, hiring, promotion and tenure in the UNC System.
Alvin Tillery Jr., a political science professor at Northwestern and director of its Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy, told Newsweek, "The same people, when they win this, they'll start suing companies for their supplier diversity programs, suing cities for programs that help minority businesses, suing to remove everything that acknowledges and seeks to help people of color."
Yahoo Finance reports, "Universities are likely to become less diverse over time, directly affecting the talent pool available to American businesses. Experts also say that the court could be receptive in the future to similar cases targeting race-based initiatives at private companies, with no shortage of cases attempting to erode race-based candidate considerations in corporate America.”
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayer, another of the High Court's dissenting liberals, made clear her dissatisfaction with last week's decision, writing in her opinion, “The Court cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter,” concluding her dissent by quoting civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Despite the Court’s unjustified exercise of power, the opinion today will serve only to highlight the Court’s own impotence in the face of an America whose cries for equality resound. As has been the case before in the history of American democracy, ‘the arc of the moral universe’ will bend toward racial justice despite the Court’s efforts today to impede its progress.”