Nearly a month after the election, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory finally conceded the election to Attorney General Roy Cooper. It’s a belated victory for Democrats, who were thrashed on November 8, losing the presidency and both houses of Congress. Cooper will likely have a challenging tenure, since Republicans still control the North Carolina state government, though.
Cooper has been in government for over 30 years, first getting elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1986. He moved to the State Senate in 1991 and was elected Attorney General in 2001.
The 59-year-old Cooper is married to Kristin Cooper, and they have three daughters – Natalie, Hilary and Claire.
Here’s a look at Cooper’s life, career and just how narrow his victory was.
1. Cooper Beat McCrory By Just Over 10,000 Votes & Is the First to Unseat a Sitting North Carolina Governor
After the latest recount numbers came in, McCrory was still behind Cooper by just 10,263 votes, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections. After over 4 million votes were cast, Cooper earned 2,309,190 votes, and McCrory received 2,298,927. Libertarian candidate Lon Cecil received 102,986 votes.
McCrory finally conceded in a Facebook video. Citing the holiday spirit, McCrory told his supporters that it is time to “respect, what I see, to be the ultimate outcome of the closest North Carolina governor’s race in modern history.” McCrory said he will respect the results and will assist Cooper’s administration in the transition.
“I want to thank Governor McCrory and our First Lady Ann McCrory for their service to our state. Kristin and I look forward to working with them and their staff in what I expect will be a smooth transition,” Cooper wrote in response.
This is the first time a sitting governor of North Carolina has been beaten. Since 1971, governors are limited to two consecutive terms.
2. Cooper Already Started Working on His Transition Team Before McCrory Conceded
Even though McCrory didn’t concede until December 5, Cooper already started putting together a transition team. After all, he declared himself the winner of the election on Election Night and again on November 22. He did not want to waste time.
“I don’t think it ever crossed my mind that Roy Cooper would not be governor on January 1,” Ken Eudy, one of the three people leading Cooper’s team, told the News Observer on December 4. “We’ve just been working on the premise that it’s going to be Cooper.”
The team already launched a transition website, where they’ve received over 1,000 resumes.
Eudy, the founder of strategic communications firm Capstrat, is leading the transition with Cooper chief of staff Kristi Jones and attorney Jim W. Phillips Jr. Phillips has known Cooper since they attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill together.
Cooper has a Juris Doctor from UNC.
3. During the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, it Was Cooper Who Announced That the 3 Students Were Falsely Accused
In March 2006, a black North Carolina Central University student accused three members of the Duke University men’s lacrosse team of rape. Duke responded by suspending the players for two games at first, but then their coach was forced to resign and the rest of the lacrosse team’s season was cancelled. Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong called it a hate crime.
Nifong recused himself from the case in January 2007 and, just four months later, Cooper announced that the students were innocent and all charges were dropped. Nifong was later disbarred and jailed.
“We believe that these cases were the result of a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations. Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges,” Cooper announced in a press conference.
Cooper said there were inconsistencies with the accuser’s story and there was no DNA evidence to confirm it. “Regardless of the reasons that this case was pushed forward, the result was wrong. Today we need to learn from this and keep it from happening again to anybody,” Cooper said.
4. Cooper Refused to Defend House Bill 2, Which He Called a ‘National Embarrassment’
In March 2016, McCrory passed the controversial House Bill 2. The law, which was passed with overwhelming majorities in the State House and State Senate, dropped anti-discrimination protection for LGBT people. It also makes it illegal for someone to use a bathroom in a government building that does not match the gender on their birth certificates.
From the moment the bill was passed, Cooper seized on it, calling it a “national embarrassment,” notes WRAL. He also announced that he would not defend it.
“This new law provides for broad-based discrimination. Obviously, the LGBT community is targeted,” he said, adding, “Other people who are discriminated against based on race, religion and other classes of people, could have a harder time bringing actions to protect themselves.”
It’s unlikely that Cooper could overturn the law, since both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly are controlled by Republicans. Republicans have a 73-45 majority in the House and a 34-16 majority in the Senate.
5. Cooper finally Decided to Run for Governor Because North Carolina ‘Has Gone Off the Tracks’
Cooper had been seen as a potential candidate for higher office in North Carolina or to represent the state in Washington for year before he finally decided to run for Governor after his fourth term as Attorney General. He was North Carolina’s longest-serving Attorney General.
“North Carolina has gone off the tracks,” Cooper said in Charlotte in February, The News Observer reports. “I love this job, but when I saw what’s been happening to my state … I knew I had to step up and do this.”
Even before being elected governor, Cooper fought laws McCrory passed. In addition to not defending HB2, he refused to defend strict voter ID laws against lawsuits.
“The courts keep striking down these laws passed by the legislature and signed by the governor,” Cooper said in August. “When are they going to learn that you just can’t run roughshod over the Constitution? That you have to pass laws that are within the framework of the state and federal constitutions? We need to start doing that in North Carolina.”