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Forest Abandons Lawsuit Challenging Cooper Executive Orders

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper (left) will face Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (right) in the November general election.
Ben McKeown for WUNC

North Carolina Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest ended a testy legal battle with campaign rival and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday after a judge recently rejected Forest's demand to block Cooper from shuttering businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forest sued the governor last month, seeking to prevent Cooper from unilaterally issuing executive orders limiting business activities and mass gatherings without the approval of a 10-member state body. The Council of State includes Cooper, Forest, Attorney General Josh Stein and several other statewide elected officials. Cooper argued he had sufficient emergency authority to take executive action in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Judge Jim Gale ruled on Tuesday that Forest didn’t prove he was likely to win arguments that Cooper has exceeded his emergency authority or that the law is unconstitutional. The lieutenant governor informed the court on Wednesday he was dismissing his lawsuit.

“I did my part,” Forest wrote on Twitter shortly after the judge's decision. “If y’all want your freedoms back you’ll have to make your voices heard in November.”

Liz Doherty, a spokeswoman for Cooper's campaign, called Forest's lawsuit “reckless” and said in a statement that it would have hurt public safety.

“While Dan Forest makes reckless decisions that endanger North Carolinians in an effort to prop up his campaign, Governor Cooper will continue to do what is right for their health and safety," Doherty said.

Public opinion polls have consistently shown Cooper with a double-digit lead over Forest and a stronger chance of victory than other prominent Democrats in key races, such as Senate challenger Cal Cunningham and presidential hopeful Joe Biden.

A July NBC News/Marist pollof 882 registered North Carolina voters found Cooper leading Forest by 20 percentage points, while Cunningham led Republican Sen. Thom Tillis by 9 points and Biden led President Donald Trump by 7 points. The poll reported a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

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