RALEIGH – Just like the rest of 2020, the day after the election is somewhat surreal. Of course, the presidential race hasn’t been called yet, with several states still counting, but the statewide races here in North Carolina also provide a lot of intrigue.
First, Republican Dan Forest lost to Democrat incumbent Roy Cooper. Showing a clear deficit in returns for most of the evening, he was never able to make up enough ground to get within striking distance. What happened? That depends on who you ask; but the common refrain is criticism of his campaign strategy (not enough TV commercials), not invigorating enough of the Republican base, and/or being hurt by the politics of COVID.
In truth, the reasons will vary with each and every voter. Many of them, though, seemed content to leave Forest hanging while showing up for other Republicans.
For one, Republican Mark Robinson bested Democrat Yvonne Holley, set to become North Carolina’s first black lieutenant governor. You likely won’t hear Democrats mention that ‘diversity’ win, but it is demonstrative of how Republicans focus on ideas, and the passion behind them, not identity politics markers.
Robinson certainly has passion behind his principles, and his campaign did a good job of presenting that to the North Carolina electorate. While the role of lieutenant governor is not quite the most powerful in the state, to understate it, it is a powerful position from which to deliver focused initiatives and issue advocacy. With Robinson’s repertoire of powerful oratory in defense of First Principles, and his broad appeal, he will excel in this regard.
But Robinson was not the only statewide Republican candidate to earn more votes than Forest. In fact, it appears everyone of them did.
While this is not the order the Forest campaign wants to see, it does contain a lot of good news for Republicans.
Steve Troxler was never in danger of losing the Commissioner of Agriculture race, especially with his totally Woke opponent. That stays in Republican hands.
Republican State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who is no stranger to tackling tough problems even if it is politically risky, retained his position. Taxpayers of all political stripes should be happy about that result.
Perhaps more politically relevant, considering the Pandemic Panic school closures and avalanche of Woke public education, is the victory of Republican Catherine Truitt for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Even though this is technically a Republican retention, in the fight over whether or not the Left gets total control education, and boxes out school choice, this is an important victory.
Moreover, incumbent Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey also bested former commissioner, and N.C. Democratic Party’s chairman, Wayne Goodwin.
And Republican state lawmaker Josh Dobson looks to have beat Democrat Jessica Holmes by enough votes to keep the Commissioner of Labor in Republican hands.
However, it is still very close, with 100,000 absentee votes outstanding, to call the race for State Attorney General. Incumbent Democrat and Cooper understudy Josh Stein holds about a 10,000 vote lead Republican Jim O’Neil in a race that is too close to call before remaining votes are tabulated. This would be a huge win for Republicans if O’Neil is able to pull it out, though with the dynamics of absentee votes, we won’t hold our breath.
Rounding out the Council of State races, long time Democrat incumbents Elaine Marshall (Secretary of State) and Beth Wood (State Auditor) kept their streaks alive with victories.
All told, then, the Council of State (at worst) keeps the current balance of a Republican majority, headed by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper (not that Cooper consults the Council like he should). At best, Republicans could possibly pick up the attorney general seat, and really change the dynamic of not only the council, but also approach to ‘Sue til Blue’ politics of the last several years.