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In campaign kickoff stop, Stein rallies Democrats to work in November

Josh Stein speaks to Henderson County Democrats during a campaign kickoff at party headquarters in Hendersonville. Josh Stein speaks to Henderson County Democrats during a campaign kickoff at party headquarters in Hendersonville.

Josh Stein, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for governor, exhorted a standing room only crowd at Democratic Party headquarters Thursday night to work to elect him and other Democrats in November, saying "rightwing politicians are taking a sledgehammer" to North Carolina's foundation.

Stein, the state attorney general, made news earlier in the day when he announced he had sued Mission Health-HCA in Asheville for what he said was noncompliance with the terms the hospital corporation agreed to when it bought the nonprofit four years ago.

“Every North Carolinian should be able to get good health care, no matter where they live, or how much money they earn, and that is why today in Asheville I sued HCA,” he said.

He reminded the audience that his office had reviewed the sale of Mission to HCA, a for-profit chain.

“The main aspects of that review was, was the price fair and did the proceeds go to a charitable purpose and the answer to both of those questions was yes. The price was fair and Dogwood Health Trust is doing good work," he said.

Based on concerns he heard from the community, he said, he negotiated additional protections on the delivery of health care, including doubling the time his office would monitor HCA’s performance — from five to 10 years.

“Two of the commitments they made was that they would have an emergency room and cancer services,” he said. “We’ve been investigating them for a series of months. We’ve gotten over 500 complaints from North Carolinians.” The 50-page lawsuit and 16 supporting affidavits “made a compelling case that what they’re doing in the emergency department and what they’re doing in their cancer services department are absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “And so asking a state court judge to order them to get in compliance with the contract that they signed.”

Stein briefly covered his life story before moving on to campaign issues.

“This is where I grew up. My wife and I grew up in Winston Salem, we raised our three children in Raleigh, they all went to North Carolina public schools just like we did,” he said. “North Carolina is our home. And what I pray is that my kids and grandkids and your kids and grandkids also want to call North Carolina home but our home is under assault. Right-wing politicians are taking a sledgehammer to its foundation. They damage our democracy. They claim the power. They gerrymandered to make it harder for people to vote. They promote the big lie about the 2020 election."

He then laid into Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for governor, and politicians on the right using social issues to "speak hate."

“They go after people who they think are juicy political targets,” he said. “Robinson vilified LGBTQ folks as filth, said that gay marriage should be banned, disrespects women, saying they are not called to lead. This past summer, the Republican supermajority stripped women in North Carolina of their reproductive freedoms, and they are not done. Robertson wants to enact a total ban on abortion with no exceptions — not for rape, not for the life and health of the mother, and it is wrong. All of it is wrong. All that it is backwards. All of them must be stopped and it is on us to defend our home and to fight for our people.”

THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY. RETURN TO THE LIGHTNING FOR MORE COVERAGE.