Walter Dalton has helped the Democrats hold on to the lieutenant governor's office.
Dalton, a 59-year-old state senator from Rutherfordton, defeated Republican candidate Robert Pittenger, 60, and Libertarian candidate Philip Rhodes on Tuesday night to replace Bev Perdue as the state's No. 2 executive.
In unofficial results, Dalton captured nearly 51 percent of the vote. Pittenger had 46 percent of the vote. Libertarian Philip Rhodes, 35, of Chapel Hill, had 3 percent of the vote.
The race was widely considered a referendum on the performance of the Democrats and Perdue's eight years in office. Perdue, who won the governor's race, was barred from seeking a third term.
Pittenger, a Charlotte Republican, resigned his Senate seat in May to focus on the campaign.
The lieutenant governor holds executive and legislative authority. The post is first in line to succeed the governor if that position becomes vacant. The lieutenant governor holds the title of president of the N.C. Senate but votes only to break ties.
In other executive branch races, Democrats won or held leads in six of eight Council of State races Tuesday night, riding a wave of Democratic support in early voting across North Carolina.
Council of State members decide a variety of issues most often related to state assets. The council includes attorney general, auditor, secretary of state, treasurer, labor commissioner, insurance commissioner, agriculture commissioner and superintendent of public instruction.
Incumbent Republicans led the labor commissioner and agricultural commissioner races.
Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper secured a third four-year term on Tuesday night by defeating Republican Bob Crumley to continue as North Carolina's top law-enforcement officer.
The unofficial results Tuesday night, with 65 percent of precincts reporting, showed Cooper with 61 percent of the vote to just over 39 percent for Crumley.
Cooper, 51, is a former state legislator from Rocky Mount who ran for re-election instead of mounting a bid for governor as had his two predecessors because he said he had “so many issues to tackle.” He focused his campaign largely on his record during the past eight years.
Crumley, also 51 and a law firm executive from Asheboro, has been involved in Republican campaigns since the 1970s, and he launched an unsuccessful bid for the state Senate in 2002.
Cooper pointed to his record during the past eight years, saying he fought meth labs, sued to protect North Carolina from out-of-state polluters and worked to keep the state's children safe from Internet predators.
But his most publicized act during his latest term came in April 2007, when he tossed out the remaining charges against three Duke University lacrosse players falsely accused of rape. In declaring them innocent, he said at the time that no DNA supported the woman's story.
In the state auditor's race, Democrat Beth Wood of Raleigh had 53 percent of the vote, while incumbent Republican Leslie Merritt, 56, of Zebulon had 47 percent. Wood, 54, worked in the auditor's office for 10 years.
The auditor's office oversees how state government and nonprofit groups operate and spend public money.
Secretary of State
Democratic Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, 62, of Lillington had the largest lead in all of the Council of State races in her re-election bid, holding 57 percent of the vote in a race with Republican real estate lawyer and broker Jack Sawyer, 36, of Mebane. The job includes enforcing ethics rules, overseeing legislative lobbyists, investigating securities fraud and cracking down on copyright infringement.
Democrat Janet Cowell, 40, of Raleigh, led Republican Bill Daughtridge, 55, of Rocky Mount in the race for treasurer, capturing 53 percent of the vote to nearly 47 percent for her opponent, with nearly 84 percent of precincts reporting. With Richard Moore leaving office in January after eight years and a failed bid for governor, the winner will have to quickly deal with the loss of at least $6 billion in the state's public pension funds, hit hard by falling prices on the stock market.
Cowell, of Raleigh, earned a master's degree from the Wharton School of Business. She is currently a business consultant and a state senator. Cowell said she would consult with investment professionals who manage large pension funds.
Daughtridge, who is from Rocky Mount, has been in the state House since 2002. He earned a master's degree in business at UNC Chapel Hill. Daughtridge has focused his campaign on his intent to form a long-term infrastructure plan for the state.
There will also be a new insurance commissioner with Jim Long stepping down after 24 years. Democrat Wayne Goodwin, 41, of Rockingham and Raleigh, had 51 percent of the vote in a three-way race with Republican John Odom, 61, of Raleigh, and Libertarian Mark McMains, 46, of Fuquay-Varina.
The winner will confront preserving the plan N.C. created to insure coastal property.
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, 56, a Republican and a Guilford County farmer, had 52 percent of the vote in the race against Democrat James Ronald “Ronnie” Ansley, 46, who grows trees in Pamlico and Wake counties.
Troxler has concentrated on food safety since becoming head cheerleader for the state's $70 billion agribusiness industry in 2005. Ansley said he would focus on developing the state's biofuels industry using woody plants instead of corn and soybeans.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
In the race for superintendent of public instruction, Democratic incumbent June Atkinson, 60, of Raleigh and Cary, led Republican Richard Morgan, 56, a former House co-speaker from Moore County.
Atkinson had 53 percent of the vote, compared to nearly 47 percent for Morgan.
Atkinson's office has virtually no power or management duties, but Atkinson has seen her role as discussing ways to improve education.