Republican Dan Forest declared victory in the race for lieutenant governor, with unofficial returns showing him beating Democrat Linda Coleman by about 11,200 votes statewide.
I think thats about as good as it gets in a tight race, he said.
Forest would be the second Republican lieutenant governor in modern history and the first to serve with a Republican governor.
The first-time candidate thanked his supporters for pulling him through in the close race, reminding them that it was proof that every vote counts.
Coleman, a former state personnel director, had strong backing from the State Employees Association of North Carolina. The group endorsed her, ran ads on her behalf in an attempt to paint Forest as an extremist and called on a cadre of volunteers to help her.
She did not concede Tuesday night. Coleman appeared to be preparing for a recount. She sent a fundraising email to supporters early Wednesday referring to the race as too close to call.
We know the tea party will stop at nothing to win this race and we have to stop them, the email said.
Forest had backing from new tea-party followers and old-line conservative groups such as the Eagle Forum, founded by Phyllis Schlafly. Forest is the son of retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick of Charlotte.
Late in the campaign, a PAC called Citizens for Accountability organized to help Forest and ran a television ad on his behalf. The ad portrayed Forest as the candidate of free enterprise. The National Federation of Independent Business endorsed him.
Forest said he shared an interest with Republican Pat McCrory, who won election as governor, to develop a plan for the states future as traditional manufacturing and tobacco economies recede. Forest said he would work with McCrory on the plan and would talk to him about being a spokesman for the endeavor.
McCrory recorded a robocall for Forest, saying he needed his fellow Republican on his team.
Unlike most states, the governor and lieutenant governor run separately, and the lieutenant governor has few duties beyond presiding over debate in the state Senate.
But Coleman would have served as the main opposition voice in a state where Republicans control the legislature and governors office.
Coleman promised to speak out against Republican initiatives she considered harmful to the working and middle classes, and to challenge Republicans education budgets.
Forest highlighted familiar themes in his campaign, including shrinking government and cutting taxes.
Forest also spoke out on issues that were not a big part of campaigns this year, including immigration and gun rights.
During the campaign, he said he was interested in looking for ways to discourage illegal immigrants from settling in the state, and said he wanted to be the point person on immigration policy.
He also advocates some form of tax credits for parents who homeschool their children and taxpayer-supported private school scholarships.
Coleman opposed such taxpayer-funded private school scholarships. Their positions could make a difference in the state because the lieutenant governor has a seat on the State Board of Education.
The state employees association made a considerable investment backing Coleman, said executive director Dana Cope, because it wanted to back one of our own. Coleman is a 30-year member of the association, having worked for years in state agency personnel offices.
Coleman would have helped put a new face on the Democratic Party in the state, Cope said, which has been dominated by white men. Coleman would have been the first African-American woman to hold statewide executive office.
If Forest ends up winning, SEANC will offer to put the campaign in the past and work with him, Cope said.
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