A stunning election night ended with several election races — including the contest for governor — unresolved, even as Republicans Donald Trump and Richard Burr scored significant victories and the GOP retained its supermajority status in the General Assembly.
In the race for governor, Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper claimed victory just before 1 a.m. Wednesday, though he led incumbent Republican Pat McCrory by roughly 4,300 votes of more than 4.7 million ballots cast — 49 percent to 48.9 percent — with thousands of absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted. McCrory earlier said he would work to make sure “every vote counted,” anticipating the race would not be decided until Nov. 18, when ballots are canvassed in each county and verified.
A rematch of the 2012 battle for lieutenant governor, in which Republican Dan Forest defeated Democrat Linda Coleman by 7,000 votes, was not much of a contest. Forest won a second term, 52 percent to 45 percent.
In the presidential race, Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 49.9 percent to 46.1 percent margin, winning the state’s 15 electoral votes and helping the New York businessman to an improbable victory, becoming the 45th president-elect.
Burr, a two-term incumbent U.S. senator who confirmed at a victory speech in Winston-Salem this would be his final election campaign, defeated Democratic former state representative Deborah Ross, 51 percent to 45 percent, in a race that Ross led in polling as recently as early October.
The state’s congressional delegation will retain its partisan split of 10 Republicans and three Democrats. Republicans won two open races, with 13th District incumbent Rep. George Holding winning the open 2nd District race over John McNeil, 57-43, and Chatham County Republican business owner Ted Budd defeating Democrat Bruce Davis 56-44.
Council of State
Democrats also appeared to lose as many as three Council of State seats, depending on the outcome of the final vote canvass. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin was losing to Republican Mike Causey by 40,000 votes, and Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson trailed Republican Mark Johnson by 56,000 votes. In the open race for state treasurer, Republican former state legislator Dale Folwell defeated Democrat Dan Blue III by a 53-47 margin.
In the contest to succeed Cooper, Wake County Democrat Josh Stein won over Republican Buck Newton by 20,000 votes.
Incumbent Republicans Steve Troxler and Cherie Berry won new terms for agriculture commissioner and commissioner of labor, respectively. Incumbent Democrat Elaine Marshall easily won a sixth term as secretary of state, while incumbent state Auditor Beth Wood, a Democrat, was holding a slim 2,500-vote lead over Republican challenger Chuck Stuber.
GOP maintains veto-proof majority in NCGA
Republicans maintained their veto-proof majorities in both the state Senate and House, gaining a seat in the Senate while losing one in the House. If the results stand, the 2017-18 session of the General Assembly will see Republicans holding 35 of the 50 Senate seats and 74 of the 120 House seats.
In the Senate, Republican challenger J.R. Britt easily defeated incumbent Democrat Jane Smith in District 13, 55 percent to 45 percent. In other closely watched races, incumbent Republicans eked out wins in Wake County Districts 15 (John Alexander) and 17 (Tamara Barringer). GOP Sens. Chad Barefoot (District 18), Wesley Meredith (District 19), and Trudy Wade (District 27) won difficult re-election bids with relative comfort. No other incumbents were defeated and no open seats changed party affiliations.
The GOP lost two House seats in both of the state’s most populous counties, Wake and Mecklenburg. In Wake County, Democrat Joe John defeated incumbent Republican Marilyn Avila in District 40 by slightly more than 300 votes, 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent; and in District 49, Democrat Cynthia Ball bested incumbent Rep. Gary Pendleton 48.7 percent to 47.2 percent (with Libertarian Gary Ulmer receiving 4.1 percent).
In Mecklenburg County, Democrats won District 88, in which Mary Belk defeated incumbent Republican Rob Bryan by 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent; and District 92, where Democrat Chaz Beazley defeated Republican Beth Danae Caulfield, 55 percent to 45 percent in the seat vacated by retiring incumbent Republican Charles Jeter.
Those losses were offset by pickups in districts that spanned the state. In the northeastern corner of the state’s House District 6, Republican Beverly Boswell narrowly defeated Democrat Tess Judge (appointed by local Democrats to take the place on the ballot of her husband Warren Judge, who died Sunday) by a 51.5-48.5 percent margin. The district was represented by Democrat-turned-Unaffiliated Rep. Paul Tine, who chose not to seek another term. Boswell’s win gave Republicans control of a seat Tine had won for Democrats in 2014.
The GOP flipped three other seats. In House District 46 (Bladen, Columbus, and Robeson counties), Republican Brenden Jones beat Democrat Tim Benton, 60-36, in the race to replace Democratic incumbent Ken Waddell. In House District 51 (Harnett and Lee counties), former GOP state Rep. John Sauls defeated Democratic incumbent Brad Salmon, 56-44. And in District 119 in the southwestern mountain counties, Republican Mike Clampitt defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe Sam Queen by roughly 300 votes.
Republicans lose Supreme Court, sweep Appeals Court races
Republicans suffered a setback on the state Supreme Court, as incumbent Justice Bob Edmunds lost to Democratic Superior Court Judge Mike Morgan by 9 points in a nominally nonpartisan contest. With Morgan’s victory, the Supreme Court will have a 4-3 liberal/Democratic majority.
The five races for seats on the state Court of Appeals — where candidates listed their partisan affiliations — were a different story, as Republicans won them all. GOP incumbent judges Richard Dietz, Bob Hunter, and Valerie Zachary defended their seats, while Republican Phil Berger Jr. narrowly defeated incumbent Judge Linda Stephens by 26,000 votes. In the open seat held by retiring Judge Linda Geer, Republican Hunter Murphy defeated Democrat Margaret Eagles and unaffiliated candidate Donald Buie.
Election results (selected races)
Council of State
Dan Forest (R-I) 51.88 percent
Linda Coleman (D) 45.27 percent
Jacki Cole (L) 2.85 percent
Josh Stein (D) 50.21 percent
Buck Newton (R) 49.79 percent
Beth Wood (D-I) 50.02 percent
Chuck Stuber (R) 49.98 percent
Steve Troxler (R-I) 55.63 percent
Walter Smith (D) 44.37 percent
Wayne Goodwin (D-I) 49.55 percent
Mike Causey (R) 50.45 percent
Cherie Berry (R-I) 55.24 percent
Charles Meeker (D) 44.65 percent
Secretary of State
Elaine Marshall (D-I) 52.21 percent
Michael LaPaglia (R) 47.79 percent
Superintendent of Public Schools
Mark Johnson (R) 50.64 percent
June Atkinson (D-I) 49.36 percent
Daniel Blue III (D) 47.24 percent
Dale Folwell (R) 52.76 percent
1st District: 241 of 247 PR
G.K. Butterfield (D-I) 66 percent
Powell Dew Jr (R) 31 percent
J.J. Summerell (I) 2 percent
2nd District: 157 of 157 PR
George Holding (R-I) 57 percent
John P. McNeil (D) 43 percent
3rd District: 232 of 236 PR
Walter B. Jones (R-I) 68 percent
Ernest T. Reeves (D) 32 percent
4th District: 182 of 182 PR David Price (D-I) 68 percent
Sue Googe (R) 32 percent
5th District: 232 of 263 PR
Virginia Foxx (R-I) 59 percent
Josh Brannon (D) 41 percent
6th District: 160 of 172 PR
Mark Walker (R-I) 59 percent
Pete Glidewell (D) 41 percent
7th District: 165 of 207 PR
David Rouzer (R-I) 61 percent
Wesley Casteen (D) 39 percent
8th District: 204 of 206 PR
Richard Hudson (R-I) 59 percent
Thomas Mills (D) 41 percent
9th District: 208 of 210 PR
Robert Pittenger (R-I) 58 percent
Christian Cano (D) 42 percent
10th District: 197 of 197 PR
Patrick McHenry (R-I) 63 percent
Andy Millard (D) 37 percent
11th District: 269 of 281 PR
Mark Meadows (R-I) 64 percent
Rick Bryson (D) 36 percent
12th District: 130 of 146 PR
Alma Adams (D-I) 67 percent
Leon Threatt (R ) 33 percent
13th District: 220 of 220 PR
Ted Budd (R) 56 percent
Bruce Davis (D) 44 percent
N.C. Supreme Court
Michael R. Morgan 54 percent, 2,134,015
Robert Edmunds 46 percent, 1,785,452
N.C. Court of Appeals
Phil Berger Jr. (R) 50.3 percent, 2,211,867
Linda Stephens (D) 49.7 percent, 2,185,665
Bob Hunter (R) 54 percent , 2,379,528
Abe Jones (D) 46 percent, 1,992,581
Richard Dietz (R) 54 percent, 2,329,695
Vince Rozier (D) 46 percent, 2,024,290
Valerie Zachary (R) 54 percent, 2,337,975
Rickye McKoy-Mitchell (D) 46 percent, 2,003,268
Hunter Murphy (R) 49 percent, 2,138,752
Margaret Eagles (D) 46 percent, 1,998,527
Donald Buie (U) 6 percent, 248,718
Carolina Journal Editor-in-Chief Rick Henderson, Managing Editor John Trump, and associate editors Dan Way, Barry Smith, and Kari Travis provided reporting for this story.