you're reading...

Cornelius News

I-77 mess took toll on McCrory in N. Meck


Nov. 10. By Dave Vieser. [Update 5 pm] It looks like Gov. Pat McCrory lost by a razor thin margin Tuesday, thanks–or no thanks—to a dramatic loss of support from Republican Northern Mecklenburg precincts. Democrat Roy Cooper is only 4,979 votes ahead, but unless the results change, it looks like the toll lanes are to blame.

NC Rep. John Bradford, a big winner in his bid for re-election to the NC District 98 seat once held by Thom Tillis, said the “toll issue was a very important issue in my race.”

He pushed HB954—a toll cancellation bill—through the NC House only to have it fail in the NC Senate, helping thwart opponent Jane Campbell, whose campaign was largely based on HB2.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett blamed the toll issue—and McCrory’s steadfast support of tolls—for what looks like a serious rebuke of the governor in North Meck. Nevertheless, McCrory has not conceded.

“It would appear what I had warned about three years ago and spent the last two trying to avoid may be close to coming true,” said Puckett, a Republican who fought the tolls. In the 14 North Meck precincts “where the voters have begged for cancelation of the I-77 toll lane contract,” the Republican governor saw a reduction of 20,432 votes from his 2012 race, he said. “It is an unfortunate outcome when victory could have been so much easier.”

McCrory ran behind all of the other Republicans on the statewide ticket, including Sen. Richard Burr, who easily won re-election. Locally, GOP incumbents such as NC Rep. John Bradford and NC Sen. Jeff Tarte also won with ease, leaving little doubt that the toll lane issue was huge in the McCrory/Cooper race. Bradford sponsored HB 95, the toll cancellation bill that passed overwhelming in the House but failed in the Senate.

McCrory held a 1- or 2-point lead most of Tuesday night, but by early Wednesday morning he was telling supporters that a recanvass would be done since the results were so close. After his comments, the governor was “swept out of the room and away from reporters so we had no chance to ask him any questions,” said WBT’s Mark Garrison.   Cooper proclaimed victory shortly thereafter and expressed confidence that the victory would be upheld during a recount.

Kurt Naas, head of the anti-toll group WidenI-77.org, summed it up this way: “McCrory’s underperformance in North Meck, on a night when Republicans outperformed expectations nationwide, decided the governor’s race.”

Bradford said that despite “a well-coordinated effort by my opponent to try and blame me for the tolls, voters in District 98 were not fooled by the misleading and negative mailers. In the end, we finished strong and I look forward serving another term.”

Whether McCrory gets another four years in the governor’s mansion looks doubtful; Cooper has hired a legal team to protect the results of the gubernatorial election.

The team will be led by election-protection attorneys Marc Elias and Kevin Hamilton of Perkins Coie, and Edwin Speas of Poyner Spruill.