Late Counts, Sex, and a Middle Finger

A map of the southeast United States with a mottled red-and-blue pattern covering North Carolina

A map of the southeast United States with a mottled red-and-blue pattern covering North Carolina

Not too many years ago, North Carolina was considered to be a politically inconsequential state. That’s because our voting patterns were predictable, and our presidential primaries were held so late that we hardly ever figured into the nominating process. But as our population grew in both numbers and diversity, we became known as a “purple” state, and when we moved our primary from May to March, suddenly our 15 electoral votes became a valued prize for anyone seeking to occupy the White House. It is no surprise, then, that as 2020 began, North Carolina was deemed by many pundits to be THE battleground state to watch. In fact, both Biden and Trump made so many trips here in the closing days of the campaign, that they could have qualified for in-state tuition. In addition to our importance to the presidential contest, North Carolina was also home to America’s most highly touted U.S. Senate race, in which our votes could decide the balance of power in Washington. But a funny thing (or two) happened on the way to November 3rd.

First, the courts allowed us to accept military and overseas ballots up until November 12, and that delayed our being able to certify final outcomes until after the presidential election had already been decided. Second, the polls were wrong about everything, including that Biden would win North Carolina. But when the dust settled, we had changed colors again, this time from purple back to red. Finally, our aforementioned Senate contest lost steam over some steamy infidelities. Cal Cunningham, who had presented himself as a straight-arrow patriot and family man, managed to cheat on his wife with not one but two different women, one of whom was married to a disabled veteran. Cal’s double-digit lead over incumbent Republican Senator Thom Tillis dissipated amidst the sex scandals, he ended up losing the race, and Democrats ended up losing a legitimate chance to control the Senate.

Our gubernatorial contest also lacked suspense as Roy Cooper predictably beat Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, but the race was closer than had been expected. Democrat Cooper had been up by as many as 12 points in one poll, and ended up beating Forest by only 4. Still, I wonder if Forest might not have closed the gap had the news media focused more on Mrs. Cooper’s middle finger and less on Cal’s indiscretions. It seems that just days before the election, Kristin Cooper shot the bird to a group of Christians assembled for a get-out-the-vote rally because one of the families was holding a Trump flag. Later she arrogantly tweeted, “Was flipping off a brainwashed kid my finest hour? Probably not, but I can live with it.” Clearly the state’s First Lady had a dislike for Donald Trump supporters, but there was plenty of disdain to go around in this year’s elections.

Forest, after all, had sued Governor Cooper for overstepping his authority in handling the COVID pandemic. Meanwhile, Forsyth District Attorney Jim O’Neill is suing Democrat incumbent Attorney General Josh Stein for airing TV ads in which O’Neill was accused of mishandling rape kits. And just about every other North Carolina candidate accused their opponent of being corrupt. One thing’s for sure: these candidates spent a ton of money to spew their accusations, and I don’t just mean on TV. I went to my mailbox on the afternoon of November 3rd, and there, awaiting me, were no less than ten brochures advocating for Joyce Krawiec, and four more opposing her. My mailbox was so full of political ads that I couldn’t hardly get to my junk mail.

The only bright spot in this vitriolic campaign year is that we North Carolinians turned out in record numbers to exercise our right to vote. According to the State Board of Elections, over 5 million people voted, and that means nearly 75% of us made our voices heard. In addition, most of us split our ballot to vote for the person rather than the party, a not-so-surprising fact, considering that “unaffiliated” folks like myself now rank second among all registered voters. Perhaps North Carolina wasn’t the swing state that everyone had predicted for 2020, but that might change in four years, at which time we’ll probably all be voting by drones, and I will have collected over 15,000 Joyce Krawiec flyers.


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