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Easley Eliminates Vinroot

With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Easley snagged 52 percent of the vote, Republican candidate Richard Vinroot received 46 percent and Libertarian candidate Barbara Howe had 2 percent.

When the cheers died down, Easley, standing next to his wife and son, announced his victory in the 2000 gubernatorial election, making Easley North Carolina's first elected governor of the 21st century. "I have so many people to thank, but I want to start with my wife," he said. "We started this thing together so working families would have a voice - tonight they will."

He assured his supporters that he would fulfill his platform promises, such as improving public education and protecting the environment. "We have enormous potential in North Carolina," he said. "We have everything we need to be great - we have the resources; let us now show we have the resolve."

At the Marriott City Center in downtown Charlotte, Vinroot greeted a dismayed yet supportive crowd, as he gave his concession speech around 10:15 p.m.

"We turned over every rock and every stone," Vinroot said. "I'm very glad about how we came up from defeat and almost grabbed a victory tonight."

After thanking his family and many campaign advocates, including his former basketball coach Dean Smith, Vinroot said he is going to take it easy now that the election is over.

"I think I'll get back to doing the things I enjoy most in my life," he said.

But many Republican supporters were curious as to how Vinroot lost in North Carolina while Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush won the state.

Vinroot said that although he does not know the exact reason for the loss, he thinks it might have to do with campaign spending.

"I think I did make enough phone calls - I don't think I made enough money," he said.

But Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., who spoke in support of Easley at the Democratic campaign headquarters in Raleigh, said N.C. voters did not base their votes primarily on party affiliation.

"I think N.C. voters are very independent voters," Edwards said. "They vote for candidates based on their merits."

Howe, who spent election night at the Bishop's House at Raleigh's St. Mary's College, said she is optimistic about the third party's efforts.

"As far as organization, we did a great job - we're getting people out and fertilizing the field for next time," she said.

Outgoing Gov. Jim Hunt, who was at Democratic headquarters in Raleigh, said he gives Easley his support in the next gubernatorial term.

"(Easley) fights for our children, our schools and the environment," Hunt said.

"I think the people of North Carolina chose a great leader tonight."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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