Governors race still up in the air as ballots continue roll in

Both parties are gathering legal horsepower as the contentious race may be headed to court

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Gov. Pat McCrory addresses supporters during a Republican election night party at the Crabtree Valley Marriott in Raleigh on Tuesday

RALEIGH — Roy Cooper, N.C.’s attorney general, declared victory in the governor’s race Tuesday evening after unofficial election results showed him leading Republican incumbent Pat McCrory by less than 5,000 votes in the largest of the 12 U.S. states holding gubernatorial elections Tuesday. The Cooper and McCrory camps are gathering their respective legal horsepower in a race that may face a courtroom showdown.Cooper’s slim lead — just 0.11 percent — means the outcome of the race is potentially weeks from being determined. There are still 110,000 absentee and provisional ballots that have yet to be counted, as election officials try to determine how many are valid, where they came from, and how many are still coming into the state board of elections. This after months of campaigning that often turned personal and saw millions of dollars in out-of-state money flowing to support both candidates.”Claiming an outcome before the process has concluded is irresponsible and disrespectful to the voters of North Carolina whose voices have yet to be heard,” McCrory campaign strategist Chris LaCivita said in a statement.If Cooper’s advantage holds, it would be the only governorship pickup for Democrats nationally. Republicans also flipped the influential N.C. Council of State, gaining a majority of the top executive positions. In the General Assembly, Republicans maintained their supermajority in both chambers, setting the scene for a potentially difficult four years should Cooper take the Executive Mansion.The campaign and the N.C. GOP signaled that a legal fight could be ahead, calling into question why more than 90,000 early votes in heavily Democratic Durham County were not uploaded until late Tuesday.LaCivita said Republicans had “grave concerns over potential irregularities” in that county. N.C. GOP Chairman Robin Hayes said dozens of lawyers would be deployed across the state to ensure the validity of every vote cast.Democrats said they expected Cooper to maintain his lead.”Last night, the people of North Carolina chose a new governor with new priorities,” Cooper’s campaign spokesman Ford Porter said on Wednesday.The race in N.C. was initially thought to be a referendum on House Bill 2, a law that requires people to use restrooms in government buildings that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate. McCrory signed the law passed by the General Assembly, and Cooper focused his challenge on it, calling the measure discriminatory and saying it should be repealed. Advertising and lawsuits from Democratic groups fighting H.B. 2 became a big part of the campaign dialogue.However, whether H.B. 2 really was the deciding factor in the outcome is unclear. With Republicans maintaining control of the legislature and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who loudly supported of H.B. 2, getting more votes than McCrory, many say there was a wide but silent support of H.B. 2 among voters that worked in Republicans’ favor in the voting booths.quoteCounty elections boards will certify Tuesday’s results on Nov. 18, state election officials said. If the race is decided by 10,000 or fewer votes, a candidate may request a recount.