North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

October 16, 2020

Pardon Our Dust

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North Carolina is heading in the wrong direction when it comes to the state’s coronavirus trends, according to this week’s update from the Coronavirus Task Force. Governor Roy Cooper (D) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Mandy Cohen gave an overview of the virus data and metrics Thursday afternoon after the state reported its highest one-day record of new cases. Unlike day-to-day increases in the number of reported cases that we have seen in the past, like universities returning to campus or after a long weekend over the summer, Sec. Cohen said that this increase cannot be traced back to one specific incident, event, or age group. Both Gov. Cooper and Sec. Cohen acknowledged that their hope is to keep the state moving forward in the reopening process rather than having to take a few steps back. Gov. Cooper and the rest of his task force will look at all of the data and trends over a 14-day period before making any decisions on the continuation of reopening in North Carolina. In the meantime, the state will continue to operate under Executive Order 169, or Phase 3 of reopening, through next week. The order is set to expire Friday, October 23 at 5:00PM. 

As of Thursday morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 238,939 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 3,493,186 completed tests, 3,874 deaths, and 1,140 current hospitalizations. As we all continue to feel the effects of the global pandemic and adjust to a new normal, we want to highlight a few ways our clients across North Carolina have worked to support residents and make this time a little easier for those throughout the state. Read more about what our clients are doing to help by clicking here.

For more information on COVID-19 in North Carolina, click here to visit the Department of Health and Human Services website, and be sure to stay up to date on the latest federal guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by clicking here.

Early Voting

Hundreds of voters lined up bright and early outside community and recreation centers, churches, community colleges, and universities as in-person early voting has officially begun throughout North Carolina. The early voting period began Thursday, October 15, and will last until Saturday, October 31. During the early voting period, any registered voter may cast their ballot at any early voting site within their county. Eligible voters who may have missed the voter registration deadline earlier this month can also become a registered voter and vote all in the same day. Once the early voting period has ended, new voters can no longer register to vote in this year’s election and registered voters must cast their ballots at their assigned polling location. To date, 7,288,731 people are registered to vote in North Carolina.

Most early voting locations are open from 8:00 am – 7:30 pm Monday through Friday, 8:00 am – 1:00 pm on Saturdays, and 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm on Sundays, though voters should double check with their specific voting site before heading out as some locations’ hours may differ. Each voting site may look a little different this year as the State Board of Elections has implemented additional safety precautions to protect poll workers and voters from COVID-19, including social distancing, providing hand sanitizer and masks, providing gloves and face shields for poll workers, and providing single-use pens instead of the typical “I Voted” stickers.

While in-person early voting has begun, voters still have 11 days, or until October 27, to request an absentee ballot. So far this year over 1,344,643 North Carolinians have already requested their absentee ballot and over 533,678 absentee ballots have been cast. For more information on how to vote early in-person, find your one-stop early voting site, check your voter registration, learn how to vote by mail, and more, visit the North Carolina State Board of Elections voting page, or click here.

Elections Roundup

With only 18 days to go before voters across the country will have cast their ballots for who they would like to serve as their elected officials, McGuireWoods Consulting is bringing you a comprehensive 2020 election website – your one-stop resource for this year’s presidential, congressional, gubernatorial, attorneys general, and state legislative races. Complete with concise information about how elections are shaping up around the country – including snapshots of primary results and hot-button ballot initiatives – our site provides a landscape view of our nation’s political scene and insights on potential shifts in the tide. Click here to visit MWC’s 2020 election website. 

Interested in even more election insight? Join members of our MWC team from across the country for our third panel discussion on the 2020 elections. Click here to register for our Election Insights Part III: Presidential, U.S. Senate and House Races webinar, Thursday, October 22 at 12:00 pm EST. 

Over the last few weeks, our team has highlighted races happening in November from around North Carolina, along with other election resources to keep everyone informed not just on what’s happening in Raleigh, but all over the state, region by region. To catch up on all of the state races we have covered so far, you can check out some of our recent editions of Week In Review. For an overview of North Carolina’s US Senate and Council of State Races also happening this year, click here. For races taking place in the Western part of the state, click here, for Central North Carolina races, click here, and for US House and Eastern North Carolina races, click here

Our team also breaks down the most competitive races for the state Senate and the state House as Democrats fight to gain majority control of at least one of the chambers in the General Assembly. Catch up on our state Senate recap by clicking here and our state House races to watch recap by clicking here.

NC State Seal

Gubernatorial Race

Incumbent Governor Roy Cooper (D) and current Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest (R) went head to head in their first, and only, debate this week in the race for North Carolina’s Governor’s mansion. Debate questions covered a range of topics from the handling of the pandemic to racism, from the state’s economy to public education and teacher pay, to disaster recovery. While there was not much either of the two candidates agreed upon, the debate provided many North Carolinians the chance to get to know both Cooper and Forest a bit better before heading to the polls over the next few weeks. The most recent RealClearPolitics polling data shows Cooper up by 11.1 points, with Cooper polling at an average of 51.3% and Forest at 40.2%.

Roy Cooper

Governor Roy Cooper (D)

A Nash County native, Governor Cooper grew up on a farm with his mother, a public school teacher, and father, a farmer and lawyer. Cooper received the Morehead Scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he also earned his law degree. After finishing school, Cooper moved back to Nash County to practice law.

Prior to running for governor, Cooper began his political career as a member of the North Carolina State House of Representatives where he served from 1987-1991 before being appointed to fill a vacant seat in the North Carolina State Senate where he then served from 1991-2001. After serving 14 years as a member of the North Carolina General Assembly, Cooper ran for Attorney General where he would hold the office for the next 16 years, from 2001-2017. Cooper ran for governor in 2016 where he narrowly defeated Republican incumbent governor Pat McCrory with 49% of the vote to McCrory’s 48.4%.

During his 2016 gubernatorial campaign, Cooper focused on repealing HB2 – a controversial bill passed by the legislature that required individuals to use the bathroom that matched the sex listed on their birth certificate. North Carolina faced national backlash and the state’s economy took a hit when major concert tours and professional sporting events and tournaments canceled their trips to cities throughout the state. This year, Cooper’s campaign has focused on how the governor will help North Carolinians get through COVID-19 and pushing for the legislature to expand Medicaid, especially in light of the pandemic.

As Governor, Cooper has created several programs to help bring jobs to the state, particularly in rural counties, such as the Finish Line Grants and Hometown Strong. Governor Cooper has established paid parental leave for state employees, launched a Clean Energy Plan, and re-established the Teaching Fellows Program to bring and keep high-quality teachers to the state.

If reelected, some of Governor Cooper’s top priorities would include expanding Medicaid, raising teacher pay, providing additional funding to the state’s public schools, and helping the state recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dan Forest

Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest (R)

An architect from Charlotte, Dan Forest has served as Lieutenant Governor for the last 8 years. Forest received his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a master’s degree from the College of Architecture at UNC Charlotte. Prior to running for public office, Forest worked for one of the state’s largest architecture firms, Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, eventually working his way up to senior partner.

In his role as Lieutenant Governor, Forest serves as the President of the North Carolina State Senate and is a member of both the State Board of Education and the State Board of Community Colleges. While lieutenant governor, Forest has advocated for and become a state leader of the school choice movement and championed legislation to protect the first amendment right of free speech on public college campuses.

A major focus of the Forest campaign has been separating himself from his opponent, especially on the handling of COVID-19 pandemic. As a member of the board, Forest has urged the State Board of Education to allow all K-12 schools the option to reopen for full in-person instruction and has advocated for the reopening of all businesses throughout the state so North Carolinians can head back to work and help the economy recover. Forest sued Governor Cooper and his administration in July over the governor’s Executive Orders that ordered businesses to close their doors and required the use of face coverings when out in public. The suit argued that the governor overstepped his emergency authority when issuing these orders because he did not receive the Council of State’s concurrence. While the lawsuit was ultimately dropped, the case illuminated the differences in how Forest would handle North Carolina’s response to the pandemic moving forward versus his opponent.

If elected as Governor, some of the top priorities of Forest’s administration would include continuing his efforts to lead the school choice movement, ensuring every classroom has access to high-speed internet, defending law enforcement agencies, requiring local sheriffs to cooperate with federal agencies such as ICE, protecting second amendment rights, and improving healthcare access by incentivizing doctors to practice in rural areas.

Interested in learning more about who is running to fill the Lieutenant Governor’s seat? Check out last week’s breakdown of the race by clicking here.