@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Cooper, Forest make quick work of primaries

Posted March 3, 2020 8:15 p.m. EST
Updated March 3, 2020 11:12 p.m. EST

— Gov. Roy Cooper and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest outdistanced their opponents by huge margins Tuesday night, setting the stage for a November clash between North Carolina's top two elected officials.

Both men had close to 90 percent of the vote, with 96 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial results.

Forest's performance came against a sitting state representative, and in remarks at North Carolina Republican Party headquarters he called the margin "far beyond our imagination."

Cooper came on stage at a Democratic event, ticked off some accomplishments and tried to fire up the crowd to work races up and down the ballot. The theme seemed to be "Go!"

"The very foundation of our Republic is at stake, and we have to make sure that we leave this place ready to go, go, go and win!"

Forest said his themes heading into the November general election will be "unity, opportunity and possibility."

"We believe it's time to pull all North Carolinians together to do away with identity politics," he said, hitting a note he repeated several times on the campaign trail.

But Forest's Republican opponent suggested during the race that he was the divisive choice. Rep. Holly Grange, R-New Hanover, was supposed to represent an establishment pushback against a Forest candidacy that some saw as too conservative to beat Cooper in November.

She complained of Forest's role in House Bill 2 – the measure restricting transgender access to public bathrooms that put North Carolina in the national headlines several years ago. Cooper mentioned the bill during his remarks Tuesday night, and it will no doubt figure into the coming general election clash.

Steven J. DiFiore, a Libertarian, and Al Pisano, who is running for the Constitution Party, will also be in that election. Neither faced a primary Tuesday.

Cooper also said he'll continue to press for increased education funding and Medicaid expansion, issues that have delayed the state budget for more than half a year as the governor fights with the General Assembly's Republican majority.

The lieutenant governor mentioned school choice in his remarks. That's a major issue for him and a policy area where he and Cooper definitely disagree. Forest supports school vouchers, and Cooper has tried to roll back taxpayer funding for them.

Grange joined the race last year, giving up any re-election plans for her House seat to do it. But a full blown campaign never emerged, and Grange raised less than $200,000 for her run.

Grange said in a statement Tuesday night that she wished she could have gotten her message out to more people. She didn't mention Forest by name but said she remains "committed to re-electing President Trump, defeating Roy Cooper and electing Republicans up and down the ballot in November."

Forest was essentially running for governor from the moment he won his second term as lieutenant governor in 2016. He raised several million dollars through a trio of fundraising committees.

Cooper beat Ernest Reeves Tuesday night, who has run unsuccessfully for a number of offices over the last decade, most recently Greenville City Council. He raised and spent less than $2,000 in the governor's race.

Cooper has about $9.5 million in his campaign account.

Forest actually outperformed Cooper, percentage-wise, in this race, putting up just over 89 percent of the vote. Cooper got about 87 percent.

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