Raleigh, N.C. — After weeks of bitterly contesting the results of the gubernatorial election, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday conceded the race to Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper.
McCrory issued a video statement, saying the state needs to unite behind Cooper moving forward.
"Despite continued questions that should be answered regarding the voting process, 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," he said in the statement.
Cooper, who was out of the state, responded by thanking McCrory for his service and looking forward to the next four years.
"I’m proud to have received the support from so many who believe that we can come together to make a North Carolina that works for everyone. It will be the honor of my life to serve this great state," Cooper said in a statement. "While this was a divisive election season, I know still that there is more that unites us than divides us. Together, we can make North Carolina the shining beacon in the South by investing in our schools, supporting working families and building a state that works for everyone."
McCrory said his administration will work with Cooper's team in the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition. Despite the contested election, Cooper started his transition effort two weeks ago.
Weeks of challenges end
Cooper ended Election Night with a lead of fewer than 5,000 votes over McCrory and immediately declared victory. But the McCrory campaign and the state Republican Party insisted that every vote needed to be counted, and they proceeded to file dozens of protests in various counties in the following days and weeks, challenging the validity of absentee votes, provisional ballots and others that they said should be thrown out.
As many of those issues were resolved, however, Cooper's lead continued to grow, and it stood at 10,263 votes on Monday – beyond the margin at which McCrory could seek a statewide recount.
The Durham County Board of Elections on Monday afternoon finished its recount of more than 90,000 ballots that were reported late on Election Night because of technical problems. That late surge pushed Cooper into the lead in the governor's race and was a major point of contention for the McCrory campaign. Although local elections officials said their hand tallies in the race were correct, the State Board of Elections ordered the recount last week and said it needed to be finished by Monday night.
The recount took more than 50 people about 21 hours over three days to complete, and the numbers barely shifted between Cooper and McCrory. Cooper picked up another six votes in Durham County, while McCrory's total remained unchanged, according to final results.
"We went through a recount that was not necessary, that was not based on law or fact," said Bill Brian, chairman of the Durham County Board of Elections. "We spent a lot of money doing it. We spent a lot of time doing it. A lot of people put a lot of energy into it, and I'm not sure why."
GOP notes McCrory's successes
McCrory's concession makes him the first governor in North Carolina history to lose a re-election bid. As Cooper allies looked forward to change on Monday, McCrory supporters looked back on his four years in office.
"Many elected officials tried to reform North Carolina's tax system before Governor McCrory, but none of them were nearly as successful," state Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes said in a statement. "His record on job creation is unmatched, as North Carolina's jobless rate moved from one of the worst in the nation to among the best. The governor's leadership on infrastructure and energy will pay dividends for years to come."
"North Carolina is a stronger state thanks to Governor Pat McCrory’s steadfast leadership and fiscal discipline," Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said in a statement.
McCrory ended his video by recounting the successes of his administration, and he said officials would spend their final weeks in charge developing a financial plan for Hurricane Matthew and mountain wildfire recovery efforts. The governor has called a special session of the General Assembly for Dec. 13 to handle legislation tied to hurricane recovery.
"I am proud that our team leaves this state in a much better place than when we came into office," he said.
Both House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger thanked McCrory for his hard work and said they look forward to working with Cooper.
"I wish Governor-Elect Cooper success as he transitions into office and look forward to working together as the General Assembly continues to improve North Carolina’s economy and education systems," Moore, R-Cleveland, said in a statement.
"We hope Gov.-elect Cooper is willing to work with us to continue improving public education and cutting taxes on families and job creators – policies championed by Gov. McCrory that have generated budget surpluses, robust economic growth and hundreds of thousands of new jobs," Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a statement. "Given that Gov.-elect Cooper won his new office with a razor-thin plurality, it is clear there is no ground swell of public support for his campaign pledge of a massive income tax increase on our state's citizens and businesses."
Cooper backers said, however, that the election shows McCrory's and the GOP's agenda for the state failed to win over voters in an election where President-elect Donald Trump carried many Republicans to victory in down-ballot races nationwide.
"This election is a strong endorsement of Roy Cooper’s correct priorities and a sharp rebuke of Gov. Pat McCrory’s agenda of raising taxes on the middle class, gutting education and passing the discriminatory House Bill 2 into law," Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said in a statement.
"Governor McCrory made the right decision to hear the voice of the people and end the fraudulent claims of voter fraud. The citizens of North Carolina have chosen to move in a more progressive direction," state NAACP President Rev. William Barber said in a statement.
McCrory ended his video with a plea for support for all public servants.
"I ask all of us to please pray for our new governor, Roy Cooper, and our new president, Donald Trump, and their families, and I encourage everyone, now more than ever, to respect our public servants and the offices they were elected to hold," he said.