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Merritt To Become State's First Elected Republican Auditor

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RALEIGH, N.C. — At least one of North Carolina's too-close-to-call Council of State races was decided Wednesday, and the result made history.

State Auditor Ralph Campbell conceded the race to his opponent, Les Merritt.

Merritt becomes the first elected Republican state auditor in North Carolina history. He is ahead of Campbell by about 30,000 votes, with some provisional ballots still left to be counted.

"I am immensely proud of the work this office has done over the last 12 years, and can assure the new auditor that he will find a dedicated, professional staff that is committed to making government accountable to the people," Campbell said in a statement.

The race between Campbell and Merritt had been tight since Election Day, with only a few thousand votes separating the two.

Campbell made his decision as the Wake County Board of Elections certified the final vote tallies Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement, Merritt thanked Campbell for his service to the state.

"It is an honor to be North Carolina's next State Auditor, and I am humbled that the people of this great state have placed their trust in me. Now that the campaign is over, it is time to move forward with the people's business."

Campbell said he pledges to work closely with Merritt to ensure a smooth transition.

State Democratic Party chairwoman Barbara Allen said the party is saddened by Campbell's loss.

Campbell is the only African-American ever to serve on the Council of State.

With the double-checking of votes complete in 97 of North Carolina's 100 counties, unofficial returns showed the statewide races for agriculture commissioner and superintendent of public instruction close enough for the second-place finisher to request a recount.

In Mecklenburg County, the process hit a legal snag.

Elections officials kicked Brian Francis out when they thought he was hovering over ballot counters. Francis went to court and a judge ordered elections officials to suspend the count of provisional ballots.

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