Raleigh, N.C. — Bounding onto a Raleigh stage to Sam & Dave's classic "Hold on, I'm Coming," a triumphant Gov.-elect Roy Cooper celebrated his election win Tuesday night – four weeks after Election Day.
The Democrat had declared victory early on Nov. 9, when he surged ahead of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory by nearly 5,000 votes, but challenges to vote totals by the McCrory campaign and state GOP officials and allegations of voter fraud kept the race in limbo until McCrory conceded on Monday. By that time, most challenges had been resolved, and Cooper's lead had grown to more than 10,000 votes, putting him out of reach for a statewide recount.
"Finally," Cooper told scores of supporters at the McKimmon Center on North Carolina State University's campus. "It's been a long journey for all of us, but we are finally here."
The crowd was there to celebrate "because, with this election, we made decisions about who we are as North Carolinians," he said, making pointed references to his campaign themes of improving the lot of all families statewide through better schools and job opportunities and of restoring North Carolina's reputation as a welcoming and diverse state.
State residents now need to listen to each other and work together to achieve those goals, Cooper said.
"Before we are Democrats or Republicans or independents, we are first neighbors, friends and North Carolinians," he said. "With your help, we can leave the politics of cynicism and fear in the rear-view mirror, and together we can build something better."
Cooper vowed to put in place the best education system for the state, make voting easier, respect women's rights and fight for clean air and water. The crowd cheered every promise, but the loudest ovation came when he said he would "fight all kinds of discrimination."
"Let's finish the job and repeal House Bill 2," he yelled above the roar, referring to the controversial state law on transgender rights that had led to nationwide criticism and the loss of business expansions, concerts, athletic events and conventions.
"I want North Carolina to be one of the most admired states," he said. "I cannot wait to get started. Enjoy tonight, for tomorrow we get to work."