Dec 6, 2016 - News

The North Carolina governor’s race is finally over. Here’s what happens next

After a month of uncertainty and legal wrangling, North Carolina finally knows who its next governor will be.

In a video message transmitted from the governor’s mansion, Gov. Pat McCrory conceded defeat in his bid for re-election.

“I personally believe that the majority of our citizens have spoken,” he said, calling the contest “the closest North Carolina governor’s race in modern history.”

Screenshot image from McCrory's concession video

Screenshot image from McCrory’s concession video

The statement paves the way for Roy Cooper, the state’s attorney general and the Democratic candidate, to be North Carolina’s 75th governor.

Why did this happen today?

McCrory has spent the last few weeks alleging voter fraud in counties across the state and crossing his fingers that absentee and provisional ballots would turn out in his  favor, hoping to make up a gap of only about 5,000 votes on election night. It didn’t work. His petitions were mostly thrown out, and as more votes were tallied, Cooper’s lead only grew.

McCrory’s last chance was the recount of Durham County votes, where 90,000 early votes were tallied at the very end of election night and gave Cooper the edge. As those were re-counted, though, the vote count didn’t change.

What was the final score?

As of Monday morning, Cooper held a lead of just more than 10,000 votes — enough where McCrory could not demand a statewide recount.

Roy Cooper: 2,309,190 – 49.02%
Pat McCrory: 2,298,927 – 48.8%
Lon Cecil (the Libertarian candidate): 102,986 – 2.19%

What was McCrory’s downfall?

It’s easy to say it was House Bill 2, the law that was passed in a single day that undid Charlotte’s city ordinance allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their gender expression and otherwise curtailed LGBT protections.

Photo via NCDOT

And that certainly had an impact. The toll lanes on I-77, which McCrory did not interfere with, also appears to have dampened enthusiasm for McCrory in northern Mecklenburg and Iredell counties. If McCrory had captured voters there at the same rate as he did in 2012, he would have won handily.

Photo via NCDOT

But Public Policy Polling put out a case on Monday that it really goes back to 2013, and it’s compelling. Basically the argument is that McCrory was defined early and often by laws pushed by a more conservative legislature. Like not expanding Medicaid, or putting abortion restrictions in a motorcycle bill.

rhino-market-single-sex-bathroom

After a resounding win in 2012, McCrory just did not capture the independents and centrist voters in 2016.

So now HB2 will be repealed, right?

Er, probably not. Republicans still have a veto-proof majority in the N.C. General Assembly. Cooper will have very little power to enact sweeping change.

Is McCrory really the first governor to lose a re-election campaign?

Yeah, but it’s a little misleading. N.C. governors couldn’t even hold office for two terms until the late 1970s. Then-Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, was almost certain to lose had she run again in 2012 but she decided not to.

What’s McCrory going to do now?

McCrory says he will spend the remaining weeks of his term working with the legislature on a special session to include relief packages for victims of Hurricane Matthew and the wildfires in the western part of the state. There is some talk that the legislature may also try to increase the number of justices to on the state Supreme Court to maintain a conservative bent, but that has yet to fully materialize.

Then presumably he’ll come home to Charlotte, to a place where the attitude toward him has markedly changed.

There is some pure speculation that he could wind up with a role in the Trump administration, but there is no good information that it is likely. McCrory also had a long career with Duke Energy, and has served on the corporate board of LendingTree, so a return to the business world is likely.

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