RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina's next governor campaigned on a promise to work if elected on bending back state government's recent right-ward turn, with the repeal of a law limiting LGBTQ rights near the top of his to-do list.
But Democrat Roy Cooper, who will take office after Republican incumbent Pat McCrory finally conceded Monday in their close race, will face an uphill struggle to do any of that because the state legislature probably won't want to go along.
Republicans in the state House and Senate will continue to hold veto-proof majorities when they reconvene next month, a few days after Cooper - the outgoing attorney general - gets sworn in to his new job. GOP leaders are resolute to keep their conservative policies intact and in defending the LGBTQ law McCrory signed known as House Bill 2, refusing to change it unless it's on their terms.
"It's clear it's on social issues where Cooper and the Republican leadership are going to disagree the most," said David McLennan, a political science professor at Meredith College in Raleigh. "His first year could be difficult."
Cooper's victory was confirmed nearly four weeks after Election Day as McCrory announced in a video message it appeared Cooper was the winner.
McCrory released the concession message just before Durham County completed a state-ordered recount of more than 94,000 ballots that showed essentially no change in the tallies for Cooper and McCrory. After all counties completed their final tabulations late Monday, Cooper still had a statewide lead of just over 10,000 votes - slightly above the total needed to avoid an automatic recount if McCrory wanted one. The State Board of Elections was expected to certify the results by the end of the week.
Cooper, who put out a written statement after McCrory's concession, scheduled Tuesday night as a belated victory rally in Raleigh.
During the campaign, Cooper said he wanted to do away with House Bill 2, which he said promotes discrimination and harmed North Carolina's economic brand.
But Cooper also said he wanted to raise teacher salaries to the national average. Cooper criticized McCrory for reducing individual and corporate tax rates that he said benefited the wealthiest the most. But Cooper was careful to say only he wanted to adjust taxes to help the middle class and small businesses.
"Together, we can make North Carolina the shining beacon in the South by investing in our schools, supporting working families and building a state that works for everyone," Cooper said in his Monday statement.
Cooper will have a platform from which he can skewer Republican policy decisions if he thinks they fail to enjoy broad, middle-class popularity, said Steven Greene, a political science professor at N.C. State University.
Unlike McCrory, who had no state government experience before being elected governor in 2012, Cooper is a veteran of Raleigh politics who may be able to negotiate some victories. He was Senate majority leader before elected attorney general in 2000.
"Don't underestimate the power of the governor," said Gary Pearce, a longtime state Democratic consultant who worked for four-term Gov. Jim Hunt. State government revenue surpluses also could make it easier for both Cooper and Republicans to get what they want.
"We hope Gov.-elect Cooper is willing to work with us to continue improving public education and cutting taxes on families and job creators," Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a news release.
Durham was one of more than 30 counties where formal protests had been filed following the election, often alleging that people who were felons, dead or voting in another state cast ballots that should be thrown out. Nearly all of the complaints were either dismissed or set aside until after the election by state and local elections boards.
Berger said he hoped Cooper would work with the legislature to address problems that surfaced during the election. Cooper's campaign, has said most of the protests filed were unfounded. The state board did agree to send their investigation of activities surrounding absentee ballots in one eastern North Carolina county to federal prosecutors so they could consider whether criminal charges are warranted.