Two tensely watched political races got a little closer to the finish line Friday night. Results show that Democrat Mike McIntyre will return for a ninth term in Congress, barring a recount that changes the outcome.
But the results remained inconclusive in the race for lieutenant governor between Republican Dan Forest and Democrat Linda Coleman.
A little after 8 p.m. Friday, McIntyres campaign sent out a statement saying: Im honored that the voters of eastern North Carolina have put their trust in me to represent them in Washington. ... I will continue my work to lower the deficit, cut government spending and red tape so small businesses can flourish and we can create more jobs.
The 7th District representative from Lumberton was one of several Democrats targeted by Republicans. The race received national attention and about $9 million in outside money, much of that for his challenger, two-term state Sen. David Rouzer of Johnston County.
The district was redrawn last year by the GOP-led legislature to make it more Republican friendly.
Complete, unofficial results show McIntyre defeated Rouzer by 655 votes out of more than 336,000 cast in 12 counties, including Johnston, Brunswick, Cumberland and New Hanover.
The margin is within the 1 percent needed for Rouzer to ask for a recount. Election results become official when the State Board of Elections certifies them.
Rouzer campaign spokeswoman Jessica Wood said the campaign would release a statement early next week.
Both Rouzer and McIntyre have been in Washington, D.C., this week. McIntyres camp said he was returning to work. Rouzer was taking part in congressional orientation and was part of a photo shoot for congressional freshmen.
The possibility for a recount also exists in the lieutenant governor race.
County results still out
At press time, three counties had not reported their results.
Forest held an election night lead of more than 11,000 votes. That was reduced Friday night to 6,644 votes. Coleman can request a recount next week if the margin is less than 10,000 votes.
The Coleman campaign has been pursuing voter information from state agencies this week on the suspicion that ballots cast by registered voters were in danger of being discounted.
The campaign wanted voter registration data from the state Division of Motor Vehicles. It tried to get copies of envelopes holding provisional ballots from state elections officials.
But the DMV told the campaign it could not provide the information it wanted, and Bartlett sent Coleman aides to seek the ballot envelopes from county boards. The process of copying envelopes and redacting personal information would take time, Bartlett told them, so would not be available by Friday.
Coleman had threatened to file lawsuits Friday over the DMV denial and over the state prohibition against registering to vote on Election Day.
Coleman spokesman Micah Beasley said those lawsuits were not filed because the legal team is focused on the ballot counts.
Both campaigns had surrogates at county board of elections meetings this week watching members debate and approve absentee and provisional ballots.
Even if the candidates in second place after Fridays tally are within recount range, chances are slim that counting the ballots again will change the outcome.
It is unlikely that Coleman could prevail if Forest remains thousands of votes ahead, said Andrew Taylor, a political scientist at N.C. State University.