RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Democrat Roy Cooper has extended his fundraising advantage over Republican incumbent Pat McCrory in the North Carolina governor’s race — one that’s been shaded so far by a state law McCrory signed limiting anti-discrimination rules for LGBT people.
Cooper’s campaign announced Tuesday it has raised more than $5.1 million during the past four months, compared to McCrory’s $3.2 million the governor’s campaign. Cooper’s team said it has $9.4 million in cash on hand as of June 30, compared to $6.3 million in McCrory’s coffers.
Cooper, the attorney general since 2001, has now outraised McCrory for four consecutive reporting periods dating to early 2015.
The “fundraising numbers show a strong grassroots enthusiasm for Roy Cooper for governor,” campaign spokesman Jamal Little said in a release. Both campaigns highlighted their percentages of small donations and donors from North Carolina residents.
Campaign reports for candidates in state races on November’s ballot were due at midnight. This most recent reporting period, starting March 1, marks the first since the General Assembly approved the law known as House Bill 2.
The national controversy over the law certainly contributed to the strong financial showing for Cooper this spring and injured McCrory, Meredith College political science professor David McLennan said.
McCrory is the “public face of HB 2, at least nationally,” McLennan said. “Any time there’s controversy and you’re an incumbent governor, it’s going to hurt fundraising.”
Cooper has blamed the governor for the legislation that has discouraged some companies from making investments in North Carolina. Trade associations have moved their conventions out of state and entertainers have canceled concerts.
Speaking to reporters before his campaign numbers were released, Cooper referred to the law as “this mess that the governor has gotten us into.”
McCrory has defended signing the bill, which directs transgender people to use the restroom and locker room in schools and other government buildings that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate. He has downplayed the law’s effect on the economy, highlighting the state’s low unemployment rate and job creation.
The race is expected to be among the most expensive gubernatorial races this November. Democrats nationally see North Carolina as their best chance to flip a governorship currently held by a Republican. Based on previous reports, Cooper has now raised an estimated $12.7 million this cycle compared to $8.7 million by McCrory.
Speaking to reporters, the governor reinforced his campaign’s narrative of Cooper of shirking his responsibilities by refusing to defend the state in court and challenging President Barack Obama’s policies. Cooper “has obviously found a lot of time to raise money instead of doing his job,” the governor said.
“We’re going to do just fine,” McCrory said following a business expansion announcement in Cary. “We’ve got sufficient money to get our message out and build upon the success we’re having in both teacher pay raises and job creation here in North Carolina.”
Democratic Governors Association spokesman Jared Leopold said Tuesday’s news is another sign the McCrory campaign is in crisis and is saddled with “the economic disaster caused by his House Bill 2.”
Among other top statewide races, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s finance report shows he raised $364,350 during the past four months and has $210,400 on hand. His Democratic challenger, former state Rep. Linda Coleman of Wake County, will report raising $226,000, with $97,900 on hand, according to figures provided by her campaign. Forest has outraised Coleman by a nearly 3-to-1 margin to date. He narrowly defeated Coleman in the 2012 election.
For attorney general, the campaign of Democrat Josh Stein of Raleigh said he will report raising more than $875,000 during the period and had more than $2.1 million on hand. The campaign of Republican nominee Buck Newton of Wilson didn’t immediately provide his numbers Tuesday.