BY CASH MICHAELS OF THE WILMINGTON JOURNAL
It took almost a full month past the Nov. 8th elections, but after numerous failed Republican legal challenges and a Durham County ballot recount that essentially confirmed the final unofficial numbers, Republican Governor Pat McCrory this week finally conceded his defeat to Democratic challenger, Roy Cooper, in the hotly contested gubernatorial race that captivated the nation.
“Despite continued questions that should be answered regarding the voting process….,,” the Governor, wearing a dark suit jacket and open shirt, said in a YouTube video concession speech Monday morning to his supporters, “…I personally believe that the majority of our citizens have spoken, and we now should do everything we can to support the 75th Governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper.”
In an email response, Cooper, the State Attorney General, thanked Governor McCrory and his wife for their service to the State of North Carolina and promised that he will strive to make North Carolina, under his leadership, a State which “works for everyone.”
Cooper beat McCrory by over 10,000 votes, thus staving off a statewide recount or any interference from the GOP-led legislature. Top Democrats were delighted.
“We look forward to working with Governor-elect Cooper to support working North Carolinians, invest in our public schools, and work to build a better North Carolina,” said North Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman, Patsy Keever, in a statement.
Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-1) was just as effusive. “I congratulate Roy Cooper on his election as Governor of the great State of North Carolina. This was a hard-fought and well-deserved win. I am confident that Roy will serve the people of North Carolina honorably, as he has for many years as Attorney General.”
State Senate Minority Leader Senator Dan Blue [D-Wake] was also pleased, but concerned about how McCrory and the Republican Party apparently tried to slash and burn the election results for political advantage.
“I’ve really been disappointed in the efforts of the State Republican Party, as well as McCrory’s campaign and the roles they’ve played in basically trying to delegitimize primarily Black votes. That’s the whole reason the [recount effort] was focused on Durham County, and if you look at some of the other places where they challenged votes – Bladen and other counties. It’s always aiming at some hidden implications that people are trying to commit fraud in the voting process.”
Senator Blue continued, “Well, when you think that, and you go single out primarily Black areas and Black voters, the logical extension is that you’re trying to imply that Black folk are committing voter fraud, and it’s simply not so.”
Even with that controversy, Democrats are happy with the win.
“After four years of Republican control in the Governor’s office and six years of a Republican-controlled State legislature that has only turned back the clock, there’s no doubt that North Carolina is ‘Ready for Roy,’” said Democratic National Committee Interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile.
However, that delight stopped at the GOP edge, perhaps portending a rocky relationship between the new Democratic Governor and the Republican-led General Assembly.
“We hope Governor-elect Cooper is willing to work with us to continue improving public education and cutting taxes on families and job creators, policies championed by Governor McCrory that have generated budget surpluses, robust economic growth and hundreds of thousands of new jobs,” said Senate President Pro-tem Senator Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). “Given that Governor-elect Cooper won his new office with a razor-thin plurality, it is clear there is no groundswell of public support for his campaign pledge of a massive income tax increase on our state’s citizens and businesses.”
But what will having Democratic Governor Roy Cooper mean, particularly to poor communities of color that, under Governor McCrory, saw their voting rights corrupted, Medicaid not expanded, and unemployment benefits reduced?
In an exclusive interview conducted just before Election Day, Roy Cooper made clear that he would be a Governor devoted, not only to helping the middle class, but also the working poor.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to get [Governor McCrory and Republican lawmakers’] emphasis off helping those at the top and fostering some type of trickle-down economics and [instead] investing in public education and in healthcare,” Cooper said.
When asked how African-Americans and Latinos would benefit from his administration, Cooper said, “It’s important for us to have a State government that looks like the people that it represents. “
“I will recruit people of color in important leadership positions in this State. I will lead efforts for us to work hard to engage in meaningful dialogue that results in action to help us fight discrimination at all levels. People in many communities feel targeted and discriminated against, and they want to be heard and respected,” then Candidate Cooper said.
“We have a lot of work to do to increase that effort to have mutual respect between State government and people, between law enforcement and people, between our education system and people. I want us to be moving forward in the fight to improve race relations, instead of backwards, and it’s pretty clear that, over the last four years….” Cooper noted, “… North Carolina has been moving backwards.”
During a Democratic Party debate before the March 15th primaries, Roy Cooper vowed even then to recruit a diverse cabinet and administration once elected governor.
“That’s what we should be about, being inclusive, “ then Candidate Cooper said then, indicating that he already has a diverse office as State Attorney General. “The first thing we have to admit is that racism does exist.”
He blasted the Republicans for legislation that gave “…big tax giveaways to out-of-state corporations at the expense of the middle class and our public schools,” further accusing the GOP of supporting a “…tax structure that makes it harder on everyday hard-working people.”
Cooper promised to bring an end to tax breaks for the rich, promising, instead, to make sound investments in public schools, pay teachers more, and promote economic development in communities of color and rural areas.
Regarding the high unemployment rate among African-Americans, Cooper said that, beyond investing to improve public education, he would push for a living wage to help lift people out of poverty, and offer better employment opportunities.
When it came to voting rights, the future Governor said he “strongly” supported efforts in Congress to fully reinstate the 1965 Voting Rights Act, later saying in October that he totally agreed with the findings of the U. S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals when it struck down North Carolina’s 2013 voter suppression law.
Governor Cooper’s transition team did not wait for McCrory’s concession speech, having been up and running for weeks, putting the pieces of his administration in place in time for taking office on January 1, 2017.
Meanwhile, outgoing Governor Pat McCrory promised a smooth transition from his administration to Governor Cooper’s.