Poll worker at Lakewood Elementary School
Poll worker cleans the voting station at Lakewood Elementary School in Durham on Election Day. Jake Axelbank / Carolina Public Press.

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Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper defeated a challenge from Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest in Tuesday’s election.

With all ballots counted except for about 1,700 provisional votes in Robeson County, Cooper led 51.5% to 47%, nearly a 248,00o vote margin.

[The latest: 2020 Election Results from state and nation]

Cooper campaign spokesperson Liz Doherty issued a victory statement late on Nov. 3:

“Tonight’s decisive victory sends the message loud and clear — North Carolinians trust Roy Cooper to put them first. These results show that North Carolinians want to expand Medicaid, boost public education and keep health and safety first during this pandemic.

“North Carolinians rejected Dan Forest’s campaign of fear and division and dangerous lies and opted instead for steady, decisive, and compassionate leadership.”

In a night when Democrats across the country may have been celebrating fewer victories than polling had led them to expect, Cooper’s victory in decidedly purple North Carolina caught national attention.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, congratulated Cooper for “a decisive victory.”

Cooper, Murphy said, “has been a steadfast leader during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his commitment to protecting the lives and livelihoods of North Carolinians has earned him a second term.”

State Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin didn’t have much to celebrate Tuesday as his own bid to regain his previous post as insurance commissioner failed, as did the efforts of several other Democratic candidates across the ballot.

However, Goodwin issued a statement saluting Cooper’s victory, making him the first governor to win re-election in North Carolina since Mike Easley in 2004.

“North Carolinians have chosen to re-elect Gov. Roy Cooper, a fighter for working families who is committed to moving our state forward,” Goodwin said.

“Since 2016, Gov. Cooper has fought for a better educated, healthier and more prosperous North Carolina where people can have more money in their pockets and opportunities to live with purpose and abundance. In a second term, Gov. Cooper will continue to prioritize raising teacher pay, expanding Medicaid and strengthening our local economies over corporate tax cuts.”

A poll worker sanitizes a voting station.
A poll worker sanitizes a voting station at the Boys and Girls Club precinct in Durham County, NC on election day. Jake Axelbank / Carolina Public Press. Credit: Jake Axelbank / Carolina Public Press

Council of state

Democrats generally had early leads in most council of state races, though none by as comfortable a margin as Cooper. About half of those leads evaporated as Election Day returns generally favored Republicans, while early vote returns mostly favored Democrats.

The exceptions were Democratic candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Jenna Wadsworth, who never led incumbent Republican Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, and Democratic treasurer candidate Ronnie Chatterji, who also never led Republican incumbent Dale Folwell from the beginning of vote counting.

Both Wadsworth and Chatterji failed to break through with many of the same North Carolina voters who backed Cooper, as they and saw their deficits only grow throughout election night.

The one highly competitive council of state race was for attorney general. First-term Democratic incumbent Josh Stein holds a narrow lead of 50.1% to 49.9% or about 14,000 votes, over Republican challenger Jim O’Neill at the end of canvassing on Nov. 13.

Republican Mark Robinson will become the state’s first Black lieutenant governor, leading Democrat Yvonne Lewis Holley 51.6% to 48.4%.

Democratic incumbent state Auditor Beth A. Wood will return to office with a relatively close victory over Anthony “Tony” Street, by about 95,000 votes.

Republican Mike Causey defeated Goodwin for insurance commissioner by a few percentage points.

Republican legislator Josh Dobson ensured that his party would hold on to the seat of retiring Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, defeating Jessica Holmes by more than 88,000 votes. Look for Dobson’s photo soon in elevators.

Democratic incumbent Elaine Marshall again won re-election as N.C. secretary state, with a 2-percentage point edge over Republican challenger E.C. Sykes.

Republican Catherine Truitt won the superintendent of public instruction race over Democrat Jen Mangrum by about 150,000 votes.

Kate Martin, Jordan Wilkie, Victoria Loe Hicks, Laura Lee and Frank Taylor contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: This article initially posted at 9:20 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2020. It has been updated several times, most recently at 6 p.m. on Nov. 14.

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