RALEIGH – It has long been known, or at least suspected, that current Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest was running for governor in 2020. Before he made it official, insiders wondered if he might be challenged from the more moderate wing of the party. Would former Governor Pat McCrory take another crack at it? Was former N.C. House Speaker, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis looking to bring his Swamp experience back to the City of Oaks?
Neither one of those threats came to pass, but it doesn’t mean those forces aren’t still at work. Indeed, credible rumors of a Forest primary challenger with the backing of the Swamp appear to be materializing.
The Dan Forest for Governor camp is warning supporters of a ‘push poll’ being conducted that drags him through the mud, while at the same time showering love on Republican N.C. House member Holly Grange (R-New Hanover).
Now, being a Republican in the General Assembly for the past several years means you are well aware of Forest’s trajectory toward 2020. At the very least, anyone in that body would need a push or pull to challenge a popular, conservative, sitting lieutenant governor in his long-telegraphed bid for governor. So where is that push and pull coming from?
According to Brant Clifton of the Daily Haymaker
“[…] I am also told that an independent expenditure (IE) worth $2 million is being organized to fund this opposition effort against Forest. The IE will reportedly be managed by a Charlotte-based GOP fundraiser with ties to Tillis’s 2014 campaign and the RNC.
Any opposition effort worth its salt will need a candidate. And who have these plotters selected? According to my sources, none other than state Rep. Holly Grange (R-Wilmington). I am told Tillis himself reached out to her personally with the $2 million promise.
My sources also tell me that Chris LaCivita — the mastermind behind the spectacular 2016 Pat McCrory campaign — has been lined up to run this reported challenge to Forest. […]”
So in one way or another, Forest is being challenged by McCrory connections and Tillis. The fact that Tillis and company apparently are not comfortable with Dan Forest as the gubernatorial candidate in 2020 should be worn as a badge of honor by the Forest campaign. Tillis is one of the least popular senators in the nation, and just earned himself a stiff primary challenge because of it. He does backstrokes in the Swamp, and probably looks down his nose at Forest as one of those ‘Far Right’ conservatives he’s always complaining about.
The Establishment crowd is probably not comfortable with Forest’s unwillingness to play ball, and especially his habit of actually pushing for conservative policies more often than not. For a significant portion of the moneyed network of political financial backers across the state and nation, a politician is only as good as the power of pull he or she affords cronies and special interests. An independent conservative does not meet the mark in that regard, and so the Platinum Members of the Milquetoast Club are organizing to sink his chances.
It will only get more interesting from here. Stay tuned.