GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – A fifth Republican – this one with no political elected experience – has entered the race for governor and focused immediately on the front-runner in the race.

Jesse Thomas, a former health care executive and a board member at UNC-Pembroke, announced that he was entering the race for the nomination to succeed Gov. Roy Cooper in 2024.

Jesse Thomas has entered the Republican race for NC governor. (UNC-PEMBROKE)

He joins three men connected to Greensboro – state Treasurer Dale Folwell, Lt. Gov. Robinson and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker – and former state senator Andy Wells, a developer from Hickory in pursuit of the GOP nomination.

The race also includes one Democrat – Attorney General Josh Stein – and two Libertarians, Shannon Bray of Apex and Mike Ross of Gaston County.

Thomas, who ran the Medicaid program for Blue Cross Blue Shield, posted a campaign website and called himself Jesse “Citizen” Thomas, saying on his website that he is “a citizen public servant, business executive and retired health plan CEO and NOT a career politician or extremist.”

“North Carolinians are ready for a Governor that will provide real results for our citizens, not one who opines to the Nonsense of the hour,” The Associated Press quoted Thomas as having said in a news release.

A native of Clarksdale, Mississippi, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois, Thomas said he was CEO of the Medicaid segment of BC/BS.

He does have political connections, having served as a health policy adviser to former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican who served from 2011 to 2019. He claims on his website to have run for Congress, although he doesn’t say from which state. There is no reference to him on Ballotpedia.

The AP reported Thomas has been affiliated with the Forward Party, which was founded by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

Robinson, a resident of Greensboro and the highest-ranking elected Republican in North Carolina, has been considered the front-runner in the race, having earned the promised endorsement from former President Donald Trump (whom he in turn endorsed), taken a solid lead in most polls and raised about $2.2 million in the first half of the year.

But Robinson, serving in his first elected office after gaining fame by preaching to a mass of gun owners at a Greensboro City Council meeting in a social media video gone viral in 2018, has a long record of outrageous comments in speeches and on social media. He has been attacked frequently by both Folwell and Walker.

And in comments to The News & Observer in Raleigh Thomas joined those attacks, asserting that Robinson has been focused on the wrong things and hasn’t shown leadership as lieutenant governor.

“He is focused on the culture war and the bedroom issues, instead of the kitchen-table issues,” Thomas said. The newspaper said a spokesperson for Robinson’s campaign did not immediately respond to an email Tuesday seeking comment.

Thomas’ original announcement apparently came last week on the “Common Grounds” Podcast hosted by Guilford County Board of Education member William Goebbel and minister Odell Cleveland.