Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina Republican Party officials appear to have accepted that Gov. Pat McCrory has lost his re-election bid to Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, but they said Tuesday they will continue pushing for a recount and hearings on challenges to individual voters out of "a sense of public duty."
Cooper's lead has grown from fewer than 5,000 votes on Election Night to more than 9,800 by Tuesday afternoon, as 92 of the state's 100 counties have certified their vote totals. Wake County is the largest county still outstanding, and the county elections board plans to meet Wednesday to finalize its totals.
The focus remains on Durham County, however, which certified its results last week. A surge of votes from Durham County late on Election Night pushed Cooper into the lead, and the McCrory campaign and GOP leaders have pressed since then for a recount in the county.
"Durham has had numerous problems in the past, had an investigation into its March primary, and I think that the process has to be gone through whether there's a likelihood of changing the outcome or not," state GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse said.
Protests against individual voters in dozens of counties have pointed out flaws in the system, even if only a handful were actually ineligible to vote, Woodhouse said, adding that a recount in Durham could reveal other problems.
Thomas Stark, a Durham voter who also is a lawyer for the Republican Party, asked the county elections board for a recount, saying manual tabulations of some vote totals because of problems with the data cards on some machines couldn't be trusted. But the Republican-controlled board rejected that request.
State Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, said the State Board of Elections, which meets Wednesday to address the Durham situation, should likewise rebuff GOP suggestions of impropriety.
"It undercuts faith in our electoral system because it suggests that there's a concern when there's no evidence of a problem there," Martin said. "By filing all these frivolous, indiscriminate challenges to voters' right to cast a ballot, that is what’s doing the greatest, making the greatest contribution toward undermining public faith in the election."
"They are for counting the votes till they're ahead. Then, they don't want to finish the process of counting the votes," Woodhouse responded.
McCrory is entitled by law to a statewide recount if he's within 10,000 votes of Cooper once all counties have certified their totals. Both he and Republican auditor candidate Chuck Stuber, who trails Democratic State Auditor Beth Wood by about 5,500 votes, have called for recounts already.
But Martin and Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey said singling out Durham County for a recount is just a stalling tactic, and McCrory should concede.
"If you're going to come, come with some facts. Do what needs to be done so that we can challenge what's really wrong, not what you think is wrong," Rey said. "The citizens of North Carolina deserve that."
"The only indication that there's been any flaws in the gubernatorial election has come from Gov. McCrory and Dallas Woodhouse," Martin said. "We have not heard concerns from outside bipartisan groups that found anything wrong."
Woodhouse denied that he and the McCrory campaign are trying to delay the process.
"They honestly feel a sense of public duty to make sure there is confidence in the outcome," he said. "I do not believe that the only reason to recount or look at things is that the outcome may change."
The State Board of Elections hasn't yet set a date to make the results of the first count in statewide races official.