Vernon Lucius Robinson is a former US Air Force Captain, conservative political activist, a former candidate for U.S. Congress, and a former City Council member of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA. As of 2014, Robinson is the campaign director of the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee.
Robinson was born in New York City in 1955 and raised in Los Angeles, California. He graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1977 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. After serving as a nuclear missile launch commander he retired from the Air Force having attained the rank of Captain. While in the Air Force Robinson earned an MBA from the University of Missouri. After moving to Winston-Salem, North Carolina with his wife Helene, Robinson taught business administration at Winston-Salem State University.
Politics and public service
Robinson's numerous campaigns for office have included runs for North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction (1996), state Senate (1998), state House of Representatives (2002), U.S. Congress (2004, 5th District, NC), Chair of the NC Republican Party (2005), and U.S. Congress (2006, 13th District, NC). He served two terms on Winston-Salem's City Council as one of only two Republicans. In 2005 he was defeated by Democrat Molly Leight, garnering 922 votes against her 1,665. Criticism mounting up to his loss included his 2004 placement of a 1-ton Ten Commandments and Bill of Rights monument at City Hall (which had to be removed). Robinson congratulated his opponent and spoke of his service as a councilmember. "I'm proud that I was sort of a watchdog on the council," he said.
According to a November 1, 2005, Winston Salem Journal article, of the 15 public safety committee meetings held during the preceding 2 years, Robinson missed seven, even though he was the committee's vice chair. During the same time period, Robinson also missed 20 of the 22 meetings of the public works committee, of which he was a member.
During the 1990s and 2000s, Robinson crusaded for school choice legislation as a measure to improve North Carolina public schools. As President of an education reform foundation, he authored articles on the topic, which were published in nonpartisan public policy digests.
2004 congressional race
Vernon Robinson was a candidate in the 2004 primary for the Republican nomination for North Carolina's 5th congressional district. He placed first in the July 20 primary before losing a runoff in August; the seat was being vacated by Richard Burr.
During the campaign, the Winston-Salem Journal, in an editorial criticizing Robinson, declared: "Jesse Helms is back! And this time, he's black." The Journal was attempting to chastise Robinson by comparing him to the very conservative ex-U.S. Senator, Jesse Helms. This editorial actually encouraged conservative support to rally around Robinson. Moreover, Robinson's campaign adopted the quote as a campaign slogan.
His 2004 campaign highlighted several issues, especially illegal immigration. In fact, his campaign really began a year earlier when he was the keynote speaker at an anti-illegal-alien rally in front of the Mexican consulate in Raleigh. His campaign, once underway, included one radio advertisement that was temporarily removed from radio stations due to concerns regarding Federal Election Commission and Federal Communications Commission regulations. The advertisement ended with a message in Spanish which translates to "Yo, gringo! This episode of 'The Twilight Zone' was paid for by Robinson for Congress." The radio station, WSJS, was concerned that the FEC and/or FCC might take issue with the non-English disclaimer, as the rest of the ad was in English. To avoid possibly being construed as biased, WSJS pulled all ads for the 5th District Primary. After Robinson decided to change the disclaimer to be in English with the above text, WSJS restored the modified ad, and with it, all 5th District ads. The guideline with which WSJS was concerned required the organization paying for a political advertisement to be disclosed. In defending his ad, Robinson said, according to the Winston-Salem Journal, "I think there might be a debate about 'paid for' (being understood), but 'Robinson for Congreso' is clear."
Robinson takes a socially conservative stance on a number of other issues. He campaigned at gun shows in the 5th District. Robinson frequently charged his primary opponents as being big tax-raisers and homosexual rights supporters. Jack Kemp initially endorsed Robinson, but withdrew his endorsement when Robinson supported strong enforcement of immigration laws.
In an eight-way primary for the Republican nomination, Robinson pulled 24% of the vote, finishing first and ahead of well-funded candidates but falling short of the 40% threshold required to avoid a runoff. Therefore, in August, Robinson faced off against second-place primary finisher Virginia Foxx, who also was a social conservative. He polled 45% against Foxx. Foxx went on to win the general election over Democrat Jim Harrell, Jr..
2006 congressional race
In early 2006, Robinson announced he would again seek to become a member of the Congressional delegation from North Carolina. He sought to run against Congressman Mel Watt in the heavily Democratic 12th Congressional District. Although he does not live in the 12th, his children go to school in the 12th's portion of Winston-Salem.
On February 28, the last day to file for office in North Carolina, Robinson withdrew as a candidate in the 12 District and filed to run in the more competitive 13th District, against incumbent Congressman Brad Miller. The 13th doesn't include any part of Winston-Salem; while members of the House are not required to live in the district they represent, it has become a strong convention that they do so. Robinson defended his candidacy in this district by saying he had several donors from the 13th in 2004 and that he was motivated by a desire to defeat Miller. Winning 63% of the vote, Robinson won a May 2 primary against two relatively unknown candidates.
Robinson's campaign featured:
- immigration issues, including a radio ad that features mariachi music
- his opponent's personal life
- challenges to Miller's priorities, accusing him of "deny[ing] our soldiers the body armor they need" and "instead of spending money on sickle-cell research", voting to spend "money to study the sex lives of Vietnamese prostitutes in San Francisco"; FactCheck "found the ad misleading on several counts."
- a soundbite from Bill Cosby in an ad called a "lesson in tough love" that ends with the assertion that "the biggest problem facing blacks today isn't slavery or racism, it's the destruction of the family; the answer isn't racial quotas or a government handout, it's personal responsibility"
In August 2011, Vernon Robinson launched a new official campaign website, announcing his candidacy for the 8th Congressional district in North Carolina. He summarized his positions on the issues on his new site and stated, "I believe there is no more pressing issue regarding national survival than the issue of our exploding national debt. We cannot allow the Obama Administration and Washington insiders to spend money that we do not have with an IOU drawn off the backs of our grandchildren. This is fiscal child abuse and changes our country's motto from "Home of the Brave" to "No Child Left a Dime." 
- Gutierrez, Bertrand M. (November 1, 2005). "RECORDS SHOW POOR ATTENDANCE FOR ROBINSON ; HE MISSED MORE PUBLIC-SAFETY COMMITTEE MEETINGS THAN ANY OTHER MEMBER". Winston - Salem Journal. p. 1.
- 'Pro: North Carolina Should Embrace School Choice' North Carolina Insight, (published by the NC Center for Public Policy Research) September 1995, pp. 34-41.
- Gizzi, John (July 26, 2004). "Black Conservative Tops North Carolina Primary". Human Events (60, number 25). p. 6.
- Jenkins, Jim (2006-08-24). "Vernon Robinson on the line...". The News & Observer. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- ^ "WSJS SUSPENDS ELECTION AD SPOTS; SPANISH DISCLAIMER PROMPTS TEMPORARY HALT OF POLITICAL ADS." Winston-Salem Journal (Winston-Salem, NC) (June 1, 2004): B2.
- ^ "ROBINSON RADIO AD REVISED BEFORE GOING BACK ON AIR; WSJS DECIDED ORIGINAL SPOT DID NOT MEET FEDERAL CAMPAIGN REGULATIONS." Winston-Salem Journal (Winston-Salem, NC) (June 2, 2004): B1.
- ^ "Leight beats Robinson: Control of South Ward will shift to Democrats" November 9, 2005, By Bertrand M. Gutierrez, Winston-Salem Journal. (accessed June 15, 2006)
- ^ http://www.newsobserver.com/630/story/445032.html
- ^ http://factcheck.org/article442.html
- ^ Bill Cosby Radio Ad (in MP3 format), from the Radio and TV ads section of the Robinson website
- ^ Brad Miller's Mariachi Party ad (in Flash format), from the Radio and TV ads section of the Robinson website