More than three weeks after Election Day, Gov. Pat McCrory is continuing his campaign — to carve a legacy as a sore loser. If the incumbent governor doesn’t concede the election to Attorney General Roy Cooper — now leading by 9,700 votes — he’ll ruin his political legacy, such as it is.
The complaints of the governor’s campaign about voter fraud have come to virtually nothing. And along the way, a number of the 43 voters accused of being ineligible felons have been shown to be cases of mistaken identity, and others who were accused were serving misdemeanor sentences, which doesn’t affect voting rights. Most inaccurate complaints have been dismissed by county election boards, which are controlled by Republicans. In fact, Democracy North Carolina, a watchdog group, warned that the governor and his supporters “are exposing themselves to charges of slandering voters.”
The governor’s people also haven’t backed up stentorian threats to appeal all sorts of issues to the State Board of Elections. In other words, it looks like McCrory’s claims of fraud are built on grains of sand, and it also appears other GOP leaders in the state and in the General Assembly don’t much care about the outcome of all this much ado about nothing.
McCrory looks petulant. He looks petty.
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He lost the election. And it was a humiliating loss, coming in a year when Donald Trump took the White House, N.C. Republican Sen. Richard Burr won re-election, Republicans retained control of the General Assembly, and even took the long-time Democratic-held offices of State Treasurer and Superintendent of Public Instruction, along with Commissioner of Insurance.
Doubtless that’s only deepened McCrory’s embarrassment. The governor won office in 2012 over Democrat Walter Dalton by 500,000 votes.
Any re-election campaign is in part a referendum on the performance of the incumbent. McCrory, an affable former Charlotte mayor, came into the governorship with a reputation as a fairly moderate Republican. He wasn’t thought of as an ideologue.
But he has been in over his head for a while —never grasping the difference between being a mayor and being governor — and the Republicans on Jones Street have enacted all sorts of radical-right legislation that the governor has watched passively. When HB2 passed, he offered an explanation that proved to be entirely wrong about the law’s impact on local governments. As the state lost millions of dollars and thousands of jobs, McCrory sat back and tried to convince the public it was no big deal.
He failed to ever develop his own agenda. He was walked on repeatedly by legislative leaders who treated him like an afterthought. Fairly harmless vetoes were overriden.
And now, GOP leaders appear to be letting him go it alone in what is clearly a futile attempt to prove some kind of massive voter fraud stole the election from him. Republicans run the State Board of Elections and have majorities on all county boards. But there’s clearly no enthusiasm for this vain crusade.
With each day that passes, Cooper’s lead seems to grow and McCrory’s legacy seems to shrink. The governor needs to stop the bleeding here, for North Carolina’s sake and his own.