The 2016 election will likely go down in history due to its unconventionality, unpopularity and unexpected ending.
On the Republican side, the beginning of the year was marked by then-presidential hopeful and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-F.L., visiting North Carolina.
“In November of next year, we are going to beat Hillary Clinton in the state of North Carolina,” Rubio said in January. He was right, just not exactly in the way he intended to be.
This was before the Iowa caucus, when the Republican playing field had yet to be weaned to a manageable size.
The Democratic side was, by comparison, much more tame. Sec. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-V.T., faced off in the debates before the senator pulled off a surprisingly close loss in Iowa and a large victory in New Hampshire.
By the time North Carolina's primary on March 15 came around, President-elect Donald Trump had pulled ahead slightly in the Republican primary and Clinton had a substantial lead over Sanders, which would prove to be insurmountable.
All the remaining candidates spent large amounts of their time in the Tar Heel state due to its large delegate value in both primaries — North Carolina had its first taste of the election spotlight.
On the Democratic side, March 15 held few surprises. Clinton swept many states due to their high minority populations, which Sanders failed to appeal to throughout the primary season.
“In states where African-American voters are a large portion of the electorate, she does really well,” Steven Greene, a political science professor at N.C. State University, said in March. “This is very similar to other states she won by large margins, and I don’t see any reason that shouldn’t happen here.”
Governor-elect Roy Cooper and Deborah Ross won the gubernatorial and senatorial primaries with over 60% of the vote.
The Republican side was less predictable. While Sen. Burr, R-N.C., and Gov. Pat McCrory easily won their primaries, Trump narrowly beat Cruz in North Carolina and won in Missouri and Florida, which caused Rubio to drop out of the race. Kasich won in Ohio.
Clinton and Trump went on to win their primaries by the end of the summer, but not before a lesser well-known primary for House of Representative members took place, delayed due to a court ruling that demanded new districts be drawn up. Primary turnout was abysmal.
As students came back to campus, so did the campaigns. Clinton had surrogates like Lena Dunham, EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock and Michelle and Barack Obama patrol the Triangle and universities across the state. Trump held mega-rallies in more traditionally red parts of the state, like Fayetteville.
Cooper kept a small lead of his own over McCrory while the two gubernatorial candidates fought over House Bill 2 and education during the campaign.
Ross spent the months before election day aggressively campaigning to increase her name recognition — a poll from Aug. 10 from Public Policy Polling showed 61 percent of respondents had no opinion about her.
In the final days of the race, it appeared Clinton would have a runaway victory in North Carolina and nationally. She had more field offices in the state than her opponent and Latino voter registration, a group that was assumed would oppose Trump, had surged.
At the end of the election cycle, two stories dominated North Carolina news. Burr had been caught making comments alluding to violence against Hillary Clinton and if she won, promising to uphold the Supreme Court blockade until there was a new president, and the firebombing of a GOP office in Orange County. McCrory and the N.C. Democratic Party condemned the attack.
On election night, Trump won North Carolina and the election by turning out surprising victories in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Burr also handily defeated Ross, and Republicans won a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly.
The results of the gubernatorial race remained too close to call, and voting irregularities in Durham led to a month of confusion over who won. Over the course of the month, Cooper's lead on McCrory grew from 5,000 votes to over 10,000, and McCrory conceded on Dec. 5.
On Dec. 6 it was announced McCrory will be meeting with the president-elect in New York City, hinting at a possible position in the Trump administration for the soon-to-be-unemployed governor.
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