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Politics & Government

Roy Cooper and Dan Forest will face off for North Carolina governor in November


Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, will face off with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican, in the general election for governor in November after both men easily dominated their primary contests Tuesday.

According to complete, unofficial results from the North Carolina State Board of Elections, Forest had 89% of the votes in the Republican primary to Rep. Holly Grange’s 13%. In the Democratic primary, Cooper had 87% of the votes. He was on primary ballots versus frequent candidate Ernest T. Reeves of Greenville, who had 13% of votes.

Cooper served in the state legislature and as attorney general before running for governor in 2016 and defeating then Gov. Pat McCrory.

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In a speech at the Democratic Party primary watch party, Cooper touted his record in the last four years. Topics included breaking up the Republican super majority, gerrymandering, attracting businesses to the state, teacher pay raises, paid parental leave for state employees, investments in schools, a clean energy plan and health care coverage.

“We’ve done a lot, but I’m not satisfied,” Cooper said. “Are you?”

“I believed that I needed to step up and run for governor and you believed in me. And together, we won this governor’s race in 2016, and I am proud to accept this party’s nomination for governor in 2020,” Cooper said.

Gov. Roy Cooper prepares to shake hands with Wayne Goodwin, chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, as he and his wife Kristin Cooper take the stage during a North Carolina Democratic Party primary election watch party at Traine Raleigh Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Travis Long

In his victory speech Tuesday night at state GOP headquarters, Forest talked about unifying North Carolinians and running a positive campaign this fall against Cooper.

“We live in a very divisive time politically,” Forest said. “It’s time to bring all North Carolinians together and do away with identity politics.”

Forest, an architect from Charlotte before seeking the office, defeated Grange, an Army veteran from Wilmington.

“Ninety percent was far beyond our imagination, I think, going into this — certainly a great race,” Forest said.

Forest entered the race long before Grange and received the endorsements of the majority of Republican House members, Senate leader Phil Berger and several sheriffs.

In an emailed statement to the N&O Tuesday night, Grange said though the election didn’t go as she’d hoped, she had a sense of optimism for the state’s future.

“We ran a campaign rooted in transparent leadership, selflessness, honesty and a better future for North Carolina families. I certainly wish we could have communicated that message to more North Carolina voters, but I saw those ideals embraced by the thousands of people I met with in every corner of our incredible state. To those who welcomed an open conversation about the future of our state, I say thank you,” Grange said.

“I grew up in a military family, before becoming a soldier and a military spouse. I’ve moved a lot in service to my country and I’ve always worked to make every community I lived in better.... It’s why I ran for state representative and it’s why I ran for governor. My campaign may have ended tonight, but that mission has not,” she said.

Grange thanked her family and supporters and said she’s “committed to re-electing President Trump, defeating Roy Cooper and electing Republicans up and down the ballot in November.”

“We have the No. 1 opportunity in the country to defeat an incumbent governor,” Michael Whatley, chairman of the N.C. Republican Party, said Tuesday night. “We’re absolutely going to send Gov. Cooper back home where he belongs.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Republican party nominee for governor, and his wife Alice walk in before speaking during a Super Tuesday MAGA Meet-Up Watch Party at the North Carolina GOP Headquarters in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Ethan Hyman

North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin sent a statement on Cooper’s primary results:

“North Carolina Democrats are proud to once again support Governor Roy Cooper, a fighter for North Carolina families who is committed to moving our state forward,” Goodwin said.

“Since 2016, Governor Cooper has fought for a better educated, healthier, and more prosperous North Carolina where people can have more money in their pockets and opportunities to live with purpose and abundance,” he said.


For more North Carolina government and politics news, listen to the Domecast politics podcast from The News & Observer and the NC Insider. You can find it on Megaphone, Apple Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

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