Raleigh, N.C. — Democrat Roy Cooper says he is moving ahead with transition planning for taking over as North Carolina governor despite close election results that his Republican rival, Gov. Pat McCrory, is disputing.
"It's 40 days until I take the oath of office. It would be irresponsible to wait any longer to tackle the issues we campaigned on across the state," Cooper said in a statement Monday.
The State Board of Elections shows Cooper has a 6,600-vote lead over McCrory as of Monday morning. Cooper's campaign insists that slim margin – roughly 4.7 million votes were cast in the gubernatorial election – will be higher once all votes are finally counted. Most counties have not completed their canvasses – the official final tally of votes – due to a number of election challenges.
One of those delays was a result of a federal lawsuit that ordered the state to count ballots from certain voters who registered to vote at the Division of Motor Vehicles but didn't make it onto official voting lists. Others challenges have come from Republicans, who are challenging the validity of certain votes cast. For example, certain voters cast ballots during the early voting period and then died, as well as some who may have been on probation for felony crimes but voted anyway. Those challenges have been filed in more than 50 counties, and McCrory's campaign has intimated they reflect serious flaws in the outcome, despite other Republicans running statewide, such as President-elect Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, winning handily.
Cooper's campaign argues those challenged votes are few in number relative to the lead Cooper enjoys, but McCrory insists any move to finalize the election is premature.
"Why is Roy Cooper so insistent on circumventing the electoral process and counting the votes of dead people and felons? It may be because he needs those fraudulent votes to count in order to win," McCrory campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz said in a statement. "Instead of insulting North Carolina voters, we intend to let the process work as it should to ensure that every legal vote is counted properly."
Cooper named Kristi Jones, his chief of staff at the state Department of Justice for the past decade, and Jim Phillips, a lawyer from Greensboro and a former chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, to co-chair his transition effort. Ken Eudy, the founder of the Capstrat public relations firm in Raleigh, will be the executive director of the transition team.
"We have a lot to do," Cooper said. "North Carolinians voted for a change two weeks ago. I have a lot of confidence in Kristi Jones, Jim Phillips and Ken Eudy to help me assemble a team that works every day for all North Carolinians."
Cooper is confident enough in his win that he has posted a "We're Hiring" message on his transition team's homepage.