Incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory officially conceded to Democratic challenger Roy Cooper Monday, after weeks of legal battles concerning election results.
Prior to the concession McCrory and the state Republican Party had filed numerous protests against the State Board of Elections over voting irregularities. County Boards of Elections originally dismissed many of the protests.
“Despite continued questions that should be answered regarding the voting process, I personally believe that the majority of our citizens have spoken, and we now should do everything we can to support the 75th governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper,” McCrory said in a video statement released yesterday.
In Durham County, the State Board of elections ordered a recount in response to allegations that mail-in absentee irregularities impacted the results.
Jennifer Frye, associate director at Democracy North Carolina, said the McCrory campaign also attempted to conduct investigations that would prove voter fraud, however the evidence was never validated.
“When a party charges fraud and voter irregularities, without really any evidence, it undermines people’s confidence in the process,” said N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange.
McCrory issued his concession as the recount he ordered in Durham wrapped up, which showed no changes in the results.
Cooper led McCrory by a margin of 10,293 votes at the time of publication, and the margin must be less than 10,000 to order a recount. Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College, said even if Durham’s recount had caused the margin to dip below 10,000, it was unlikely a statewide recount would have produced an additional 9,000 votes.
“I certainly think it felt like the governor saw the writing on the wall,” he said. “He was able to get the Durham recount but there was just not enough change coming out of that recount to make up for the 10,000-plus votes.”
Insko said there has never been a credible record of significant voter fraud in North Carolina, meaning voter irregularities would have little to no impact on the results.
“What McCrory’s campaign and many of the legislators have argued, who are for voter ID and restricting voting rights, is that things like same-day registration open up the system to fraud," Frye said. "But there’s just no evidence of that."
Cooper, now governor-elect, issued a statement on Twitter Monday, thanking McCrory for his service to the state.
"It will be the honor of my life to serve this great state," he said. "While this was a divisive election season, I know still that there is more that unites us than divides us."
Republican Buck Newton also conceded his attorney general candidacy to Democrat Josh Stein Monday.
As governor, Cooper will face a Republican supermajority in the General Assembly, whose numbers will allow for a veto override.
“I think it’s going to be incumbent on the governor as well as on the leadership of the General Assembly to find areas of mutual agreement and build on those rather than just go right at a fight,” said N.C. Rep Craig Horn, R-Union.
Repealing House Bill 2 was part of Cooper’s major platform during the campaign. Rob Schofield, policy director at North Carolina Policy Watch, said McCrory’s support of HB2 gave him a reputation as a hard-line conservative.
“Really, HB2 cemented that — it was his last chance to fight back and to really return to this moderate politician he had been for so many years as mayor of Charlotte,” he said. “When he decided not to do that, to go all in with the far-right, it cemented his demise.”
Bitzer said partisan disagreement over the law could leave the fate of the legislation up to the courts.
“I don’t think the Republicans in the legislature are going to be willing to repeal one of their signature laws,” he said. “It may have to be a third party — the courts — to ultimately break the deadlock and decide HB2 one way or the other.”
Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Durham, said in an email HB2 hurt McCrory in urban areas.
“He lost the election because even many Trump voters realized that HB2 was hurting our state economically and taking away jobs,” he said.
Schofield said Cooper will need to engage in many battles with the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
“I think he’s gonna have to figure out a way to identify a handful of progressive issues and just really champion them," he said. "And I think he’s gonna have to be willing to fight a lot of losing battles with the legislature, veto a lot of bills and have the vetoes be overridden."
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.