Concession comes after vote recount in Durham County
♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor
RALEIGH (CFP) — Nearly a month after election day, North Carolina’s hotly contested governor’s race has finally been settled and will flip into Democratic hands.
Republican Governor Pat McCrory conceded the race to Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper on December 5, after it became clear that an ongoing recount in Durham County would not overturn Cooper’s lead.
“Despite continued questions that should be answered regarding the voting process, I personally believe that the majority of our citizens have spoken,” McCrory said in a video posted on YouTube. “We now should do everything we can to support (Cooper).”
Cooper welcomed the concession in a Facebook post, bringing to an end a contentious race that became the most expensive governor’s race in state history.
“While this was a divisive election season, I know still that there is more that unites us than divides us,” Cooper said. “I’d like to thank all of the hardworking families in North Carolina, and I look forward to serving the greatest state in the country as your governor.”
Cooper’s lead over McCrory was 10,263 votes, out of more than 4.7 million votes cast, a difference of just .22 percent.
Cooper’s win is a rare moment of good news for Democrats in North Carolina, which went Republican in both the presidential and U.S. Senate races. The Cooper-McCrory contest was the only governor’s race in the country that shifted the office from Republican to Democrat.
Democrats will now hold four out 14 Southern governorships. The others are in Virginia, West Virginia and Louisiana. Republicans hold the remaining 10.
The contention over the results in Durham began on election night, when a batch of 90,000 votes came in all at once, propelling Cooper — who had trailed most of the night — into the lead statewide.
McCrory and his campaign found those results suspicious and demanded a recount. However, Durham election officials said the late reporting of results was caused by a technical problem that forced them to enter the results from voting machines by hand.
The Durham County elections board turned down McCrory’s request for a recount, but the State Board of Elections voted along party lines to order one.
In North Carolina, both state and county elections boards are appointed by the governor, and the governor’s party holds a majority.
McCrory rode a GOP wave into office in 2012, but the Republican-controlled legislature’s passage of a controversial voter ID law and measures favored by religious conservatives made the governor a lightning rod.
The issue that dominated the race was McCrory’s decision to sign a law requiring transgendered students to use bathrooms that match their gender of birth, rather than their gender of identity, in public facilities.
McCrory continued to defend the law, even after a number of businesses scuttled expansion plans and the NCAA, NBA and ACC pulled events from the state.
Cooper not only opposed the measure, but he also refused to defend it in court when students and the federal government took legal action to overturn it.