Cooper raised $41 million; outspent GOP candidates still won

January 14, 2021 GMT

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Democratic candidates dominated fundraising in last fall’s elections for the top statewide positions in North Carolina government, according to campaign finance reports filed this week. But it didn’t always translate into victories.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper reported raising another $4.5 million during the final 2 1/2 months of 2020, most of which arrived during the two weeks before the Nov. 3 election.

That brought both Cooper’s overall fundraising and spending totals since the start of the campaign cycle in early 2017 to roughly $41 million each, according to his campaign’s report. Fourth-quarter reports for candidates on the November ballot were due Tuesday at the State Board of Elections.


The totals paled in comparison to those of Cooper’s challenger, then-Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who lost to Cooper by 4.5 percentage points.

Forest, who had prepared for a gubernatorial bid for years, reported raising $11.7 million during the cycle and spending $11.2 million. Forest raised $785,000 in the fourth quarter.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein won by just 14,000 votes despite spending 10 times as much campaign money during the cycle compared with Republican challenger Jim O’Neill — $12.6 million to $1.25 million.

In the race for lieutenant governor, Republican Mark Robinson and Democrat Yvonne Holley were essentially tied in campaign spending at about $1.3 million each.

But Robinson won even through Holley benefitted from large donations by former Democratic presidential candidate and billionaire Michael Bloomberg to the Beyond Carbon Victory Fund that he created to promote clean energy. Nearly all of the nearly $8.8 million that the independent expenditure group spent went to back Holley’s candidacy through radio, TV and online advertising, according to filings.

Republicans also swept all eight elections for seats on the state Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals despite getting outspent in the individual races by Democratic candidates.

In the race for chief justice, Democratic incumbent Cheri Beasley spent nearly $2.1 million in her bid for a full eight-year term. Associate Justice Paul Newby, a Republican challenging Beasley, spent $973,000 during the campaign cycle.

Newby won one of the closest statewide elections in North Carolina history, receiving just 401 more votes than Beasley from nearly 5.4 million cast.