Dan Forest says he's relieved Lt. Gov. race is over

abaird@newsobserver.comNovember 19, 2012 

— Republican Dan Forest expressed relief on Monday after Democrat Linda Coleman said she would not ask for a recount of votes in the lieutenant governor’s race.

“We’re going to take a few days, and we’re going to enjoy our Thanksgiving break,” Forest said. “We’re going to get a little sleep and celebrate.”

Forest made what amounted to his second victory speech – he had claimed victory on election night – at state Republican Party headquarters in Raleigh on Monday with his wife Alice and four children at his side.

Just an hour before at the Democratic Party headquarters in Raleigh, Coleman had announced that she was not going to pursue what could have been a lengthy and costly effort to have statewide ballots recounted.

After county boards of election counted provisional ballots – ones cast with concerns about a voter’s eligibility – Coleman trailed Forest by 6,858 votes out of 4.3 million cast. The difference close enough for a recount, but she decided the gap was too large to overcome.

“It was a hard-fought, spirited campaign and we have stark differences,” Coleman said. “North Carolinians have chosen (Forest) ... I know that many are disappointed with the outcome of this election. Do not be.”

Coleman said she will keep fighting for issues at the core of her campaign and will continue public service; campaign spokesman Micah Beasley said “it’s safe to say you haven’t seen the last of Linda.”

Forest reacted to the news immediately via Twitter by thanking Coleman “for a hard fought race and for years of public service to (North Carolina).”

Defining the job

The Raleigh architect, whose mother is retiring U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick of Charlotte, said he plans to work with Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and Gov.-elect Pat McCrory to ensure a smooth transition and to etch out his exact job description as the state’s No. 2 executive.

As part of his official duties, Forest will preside over the Republican-controlled Senate. He could cast a tie-breaking vote, but beyond that the role is somewhat ambiguous.

McCrory spokesman Ricky Diaz said Monday that the governor-elect congratulated Forest and looks forward to working with him, but that the exact roles Forest will assume have not been decided.

During the campaign, Forest traveled to most of the state’s 100 counties in a vinyl-wrapped RV bearing the “Run Forest Run” slogan. To familiarize himself with the members of the Senate and help nail down his job, Forest said he will be back on the road after a break for Thanksgiving.

“I plan on meeting with every senator in North Carolina, both Republican and Democrat,” Forest said.

During the campaign Forest followed Republican talking points of shrinking government and cutting taxes, but he also spoke out on issues that other Republicans were not campaigning on, such as gun rights and immigration. On the latter, Forest said he was interested in looking for ways to discourage illegal immigrants from settling in the state and said he wanted to be the point person on immigration policy. Forest also advocates tax credits for parents who home school their children – as he and his wife have done – and taxpayer-supported private school scholarships.

On Monday, he said he hoped to focus on job creation and education reform.

Moving forward

The State Employees Association of North Carolina – which had supported Coleman, a former state personnel director and 30-year member of the group – was an outspoken critic of Forest throughout the campaign and ran ads portraying him as an extremist. The organization had pledged to support Coleman in any recount efforts. Forest’s campaign, in turn, had vowed not to let unions steal the election as provisional ballots were counted.

Both sides on Monday expressed interest in working together now that the campaign is over.

“If we had it to do over again, we wouldn’t have changed a thing on our side,” said Dana Cope, executive director of SEANC, on Monday. “But now that the race is over, I congratulate Dan Forest on his win and pledge to work with him.”

Cope added that the group and its members will strongly back any elected leaders who “value quality public service, who want to help protect the tax payers of North Carolina, who fight for working families.”

Forest said the union and other opponents wrongly painted him as an extremist, but now is the time to move on.

“We’re going to move forward, the campaign is behind us now,” Forest said. “We need to lead in a bipartisan way. I believe that the people of North Carolina want to see leaders who put that type of stuff behind them.”

Baird: 919-829-4696

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