RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina voters put a Republican in the Executive Mansion for the first time in 20 years on Tuesday, extended the party’s advantage in the General Assembly and kept control of the Supreme Court in a big day for the GOP.
Republican Mitt Romney also beat President Barack Obama in North Carolina to take the state’s 15 electoral votes.
Former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory won the governor’s race over Democrat Walter Dalton with 55 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. McCrory lost to Democrat Beverly Perdue in 2008, when Obama won North Carolina by 14,000 votes. Perdue didn’t seek re-election this year.
McCrory will take the oath of office in January. Jim Martin was the last Republican governor, leaving office in 1993.
Private preschool teacher Mary Russ, 43, of Raleigh said her financial circumstances are no better than four years ago, so she backed Republicans Mitt Romney and Pat McCrory.
“I was pretty much steady” for the GOP candidates, Russ said.
North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby won re-election to his seat, allowing Republicans to keep a majority on the state’s highest court. Partial unofficial results show Newby withstood a challenge by Sam Ervin IV and won another eight-year term on the court.
The race was officially nonpartisan but had plenty of political ramifications. Four of the seven current justices are Republican by voter registration. The court is expected to consider legal challenges to redistricting in the near future. Outside groups raised at least $2 million to back Newby’s re-election.
Republicans expanded their control in the General Assembly by gaining a veto-proof majority in the House and keeping one in the Senate.
Unofficial results show Republicans won 32 seats in the Senate and at least 76 in the House. Republicans held 68 seats in the House and 31 in the Senate over the past two years. GOP lawmakers increased their grip on the Legislature because the majorities they won in 2010 entitled them to redraw maps for the legislative districts based on once-a-decade Census figures.
Democratic Reps. Martha Alexander of Mecklenburg County, Marian McLawhorn of Pitt County and Ray Rapp of Madison County all narrowly lost their seats, according to unofficial results. Republicans also won at least three open seats previously held by Democrats.
Sen. Doug Berger, D-Franklin, lost his seat to Republican Chad Barefoot, while Sen. Stan White, D-Dare, was narrowly leading Republican Bill Cook, an outgoing House member, unofficial results said. Sen. Don East, R-Surry, won his seat posthumously. East died last month. Republican leaders in his district picked outgoing Rep. Shirley Randleman to replace him.
North Carolina voters also were poised to elect a new lieutenant governor and seven members of the Council of State, all 13 members of the state’s U.S. House delegation, three Court of Appeals judges and scores of county commissioners and local bond issues.
The race for lieutenant governor between Republican Dan Forest and Democrat Linda Coleman was too close to call late Tuesday. Forest is the son of retiring U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick of Charlotte and leaned on his party’s tea party and evangelical blocs. Coleman has been a state worker for more than 30 years and was most recently Gov. Beverly Perdue’s state personnel director before stepping down to run for the state’s No. 2 office.
Elwin “Skip” Thibault, 53, of Raleigh is a schoolteacher who was particularly focused on the election for state schools superintendent. He said he voted for the Democrat in that race, June Atkinson over the tea party Republican challenger John Tedesco. Thibault described himself as a libertarian-minded, former Reagan Republican who highly values separation of church and state, so he found himself pushed toward Democrats.
“The right-wing of the Republican Party has kind of scared me away,” Thibault said. “They left me way in the dust.”
Atkinson was re-elected as state superintendent of public instruction over Tedesco, according to unofficial returns. North Carolina is among a few states that elect their chief school administrators, but the office has virtually no power or management duties. The appointed state school board can define the superintendent’s duties.
Republican Steve Troxler was re-elected as the state’s agriculture commissioner over Democrat Walter Smith, a Yadkin County poultry grower and retired USDA Farm Service Agency official.
Republican Cherie Berry won a fourth term as labor commissioner, the job responsible for protecting the safety of the state’s four million workers. Berry beat Democrat John Brooks, who was labor commissioner from 1977 to 1993. He held the job in 1991 when a fire at a Hamlet chicken-processing plant killed 25 workers in the state’s worst industrial disaster.
The elected manager of North Carolina’s public pensions and debt is getting another four years as state treasurer. Unofficial results show Democrat Janet Cowell of Raleigh winning re-election Tuesday over Republican accountant Steve Royal of Elkin.
Incumbent Wayne Goodwin defeated Republican Mike Causey of Greensboro for state insurance commissioner, a job responsible for regulating insurance companies and balancing company profits with consumer needs.
Democratic incumbent Elaine Marshall will serve a fifth term as secretary of state, defeating Republican Ed Goodwin of Edenton, a Chowan County commissioner.
Democrat Beth Wood was re-elected to a second term as state auditor. She beat Republican Debra Goldman, a member of the Wake County school board, which oversees North Carolina’s largest school district.
Another member of the Wake school board, Republican John Tedesco, lost his bid to unseat Democratic incumbent June Atkinson as state superintendent of public instruction.
Steve Troxler was re-elected agriculture commissioner, beating Democrat and Yadkin County poultry grower Walter Smith.
It was a cold and cloudy Election Day across the state, but turnout was steady, State Board of Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett said. More than 2.7 million ballots already cast through mail-in absentee voting and in-person early voting that ended last weekend.
Bartlett said he expected turnout to be about 70 percent, the same as in 2008. North Carolina has about 400,000 more registered voters than in 2008, and about 250,000 to 300,000 more people were expected to vote, Bartlett said.
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