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Republicans Lead In Statewide Races; Attorney General Still Too Close To Call

Voters walk past campaign signs at the Graham Civic Center polling location in Graham, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.
Gerry Broome
AP Photo
Voters walk past campaign signs at the Graham Civic Center polling location in Graham, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Updated at 8:15 p.m on 11/4/2020

Unlike some national races, the outcomes of most statewide races in North Carolina are more clear. Still, a few races are up in the air, with more than 100,000 absentee ballots left to count.

It was a rough election night for Democrats in North Carolina, as they suffered apparent defeats in key Council of State and judicial races.

While Gov. Roy Cooper comfortably won re-election over Republican challenger Lt. Gov. Dan Forest ― garnering more than 51.5% of the vote ― Republicans were declared the winners in many of the other Council of State races.

The Associated Press called political newcomer Mark Robinson the winner in the Lieutenant Governor’s race, while Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey and Treasurer Dale Folwell were among the Republicans re-elected. Robinson is the first Black Lt. Gov. in the state’s history. Additionally, Republican Catherine Truitt captured the race for the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In a press conference Wednesday, state Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley thanked the Trump campaign for turning out voters. 

"For us to have this big a series of wins on the Republican side, is really a great validation of the ground game and the enthusiasm we have for conservative ideals here," Whatley said.

As of Wednesday evening, Republicans had won five Council of State races. Also, Republican Josh Dobson had a lead of 91,526 votes in the race for Labor Commissioner, according to the AP.

In the race for North Carolina Secretary of State, Democratic incumbent Elaine Marshall was re-elected to a seventh term, fending off a challenge from E.C. Sykes. The AP had not declared a winner in the race for state Auditor as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, but Democratic incumbent Beth Wood ― seeking her fourth term ― had a lead of more than 90,034 votes over Republican challenger Anthony Wayne Street.

A few other races remain unclear and may still hang in the balance.

In the race for Attorney General, Democrat incumbent Josh Stein is holding a lead of less than 11,000 votes over Republican challenger Jim O'Neill. That's a difference of less than two-tenths of a percent. It's a result that could possibly change when the remaining absentee ballots are counted.

The other razor thin result is on the North Carolina Supreme Court. Democratic incumbent Cheri Beasley trails Republican challenger Paul Newby by fewer than 4,000 votes for the chief justice chair.

Challengers may call for a recount if the margin of victory is less than 10,000 votes.

Around noon Wednesday, the Associated Press called a winner in one of the state's three Supreme Court races, giving Republican challenger Tamara Barringer the nod over Democratic incumbent Mark Davis for the fourth seat on the state's high court. Davis was appointed to the court by Cooper in 2019 to fill Beasely’s seat when she became chief justice.

In the other state Supreme Court race, Republican Phil Berger Jr. led Lucy Inman by more than 74,000 votes Wednesday evening for the second seat on the state’s high court.

Even if all three Republicans prevail, Democrats would still hold a four-to-three majority on the state's high court.

For the second straight election, Republicans also swept all five races for open seats on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. April Wood and Fred Gore are newcomers to the court, Chris Dillon was reelected, and Jeff Carpenter defeated incumbent Democrat Reuben Young. For the 13th seat on the court, Republican Jefferson Griffin topped Democratic incumbent Chris Brook by more than 124,000 votes.

Producers Celeste Gracia and Laura Pellicer contributed to this report.

Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. His past work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and is also a voter in the AP Top 25 poll for women's college basketball.
Jason deBruyn is WUNC's Supervising Editor for Digital News, a position he took in 2024. He has been in the WUNC newsroom since 2016 as a reporter.
Rusty Jacobs is WUNC's Voting and Election Integrity Reporter.
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