ALTAMAHAW, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson officially threw his name in the race for governor at a rally in Alamance County.
The rally began about 4 p.m. at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, just outside Elon in northern Alamance County.
Several speakers took to the podium before Robinson appeared on the stage about 4:30 p.m, including more than a dozen Republican state lawmakers who said Robinson is a man of faith that North Carolina needs.
"We in the House, we wholeheartedly endorse and we stand behind our friend, the next governor of the state of North Carolina, Mark Robinson," Rep. Neal Jackson, R-Moore, Randolph, said.
When Robinson finally spoke, he didn't spend much time before telling the crowd what it came to hear.
"Today, we make it official. I am running for governor of North Carolina," Robinson said.
The sharp-spoken social conservative told the audience that North Carolina needs a leader like him who can relate to the challenges and desires of working people.
There was a lot of support from the several hundred people who gathered at the race track on a day threatened by storms, including the state lawmakers and faith leaders who are endorsing Robinson.
Robinson preceded the announcement by thanking God, his family, his staff and numerous others. He then talked about his childhood and tough times growing up in Greensboro the ninth of 10 children.
Chris Wiles from Caswell County felt like he understood.
"Actually I got emotional because it felt like he was talking to me," Wiles said. "You want to look to someone who is faith based, community guy who gets out and helps his fellow man."
Robinson spoke for nearly 40 minutes on a variety of issues.
WATCH: Robinson's full remarks
"So why am I running? I'm running for governor because we the people of North Carolina need someone who understands us," Robinson said. "We don't need another politician who spent their life climbing the political ladder. We need a public servant. Someone who's actually lived through the struggles of everyday North Carolinians."
Elected the state's first Black lieutenant governor in 2020 in his first run for political office, Robinson would make similar history if he wins the governorship.
Robinson touched on the economy, the education system and on public safety, among other topics. He was backed by 16 North Carolina Republicans who showed up in person to announce their support.
"I was supposed to be crushed by racism as a Black man in the South," he said under rain showers. "I have a chance to be a symbol to others in humble beginnings, and despite what anyone else may tell you, you can achieve anything."
Robinson's entry was anticipated for well more than a year. He heavily hinted at a run in speeches and fundraising appeals. The 54-year-old also released an autobiography that talked about a childhood of poverty, financial challenges as an adult, his religious beliefs and his late entry into politics.
Several people who were opposed to Robinson stood near the entrance of Ace Speedway with signs saying "He is not our man."
"I feel like he's not for us," Ebony Pinnix of Burlington said. "We can't go backwards. We have started moving forward. You're seeing the crowds are mixed, which is a great thing. There's no need to divide us again."
The only Democrat in the race so far is Attorney General Josh Stein.
Robinson is the second Republican to enter the race. Last month State Treasurer Dale Folwell announced he is running.
They soon could be joined by a third. Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., is preparing to enter in the coming weeks, according to Tim Murtaugh, a spokesperson for a consulting firm advising Walker.
Robinson's popularity among the Republican base and flush coffers put him squarely at the top of the list of candidates for a GOP primary. But despite Republican success in controlling the state legislature, the GOP has won the governor's office just once since 1992, back in 2012 when Pat McCrory became governor.
The office of lieutenant governor has been considered for several decades as a stepping stone to the state's highest office. But since the late 1960s, only three of them - all Democrats - have made the leap to governor.
A former factory worker and daycare operator, Robinson gained public attention from a viral video of his 2018 anti-gun control speech to the Greensboro City Council about attempts to cancel a local gun show.
"I think he's honest. I think he's straightforward. I think he's worked hard for where he is today," said Ruthann Harris, 78, of Elon, who attended the rally.
"I think he'll listen to the people," said Nim Harris, her husband.
Robinson's critics have pointed to speeches he has made in conservative churches and on radio shows that touched on his antipathy toward LGBTQ activism and for his support for banning abortion.
In one address at a church in 2021, Robinson said, "There's no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth."
Robinson hasn't apologized for such remarks, saying that he wasn't attacking the LGBTQ community but rather that it was a judgment on reading materials in public schools. He also has said he can separate his religious views from the responsibilities of office.
Robinson said Saturday he wants to make North Carolina a "destination state for life," which he said includes his support for legislation preventing abortions once an ultrasound first detects fetal cardiac activity, typically about six weeks after fertilization. State law currently bans nearly all abortions after 20 weeks.
The Associated Press contributed.