Incumbent Democrat Roy Cooper and challenging Republican Dan Forest are locked in a gubernatorial race with wildly different stances on topics ranging from COVID-19 to climate change.
As thousands of North Carolinians continue to cast their ballots, the two candidates have repeatedly challenged each other on a number of pressing issues, whether it be on local television or radio.
In the gubernatorial debate on Oct. 14, 2020, voters got to see the two candidates spar head to head for the first time. The debate covered a range of topics, including the COVID-19 response, education, health care and more.
Forest has been critical of Cooper’s COVID-19 response since the beginning of the pandemic and pressed him on the unemployment rate in North Carolina during the debate. He blamed Cooper’s COVID-19 restrictions for hefty unemployment rates in North Carolina since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Masks [are] a great cover for what he really doesn’t want to talk about,” Forest said. “The over million and a half people that he has left unemployed.”
Cooper fired back, saying that Forest was ignoring both science and common sense.
“You cannot wish the pandemic away,” Cooper said. “It’s going to take us dealing with this pandemic and slowing the spread to get our economy fully going again. When you’re out there pretending that there is no pandemic, that is going to hurt the number of jobs that we have.”
Another source of heated discussion in the debate was public education. Cooper, who has only allowed North Carolina’s elementary schools to fully reopen, was vocal about his distaste for Forest’s plan to reopen all K-12 public schools.
“That is dangerous,” Cooper said. “It is stunning to me that he would use children as political pawns during the middle of a pandemic.”
Forest responded in turn, saying that local governments and parents should decide when they want their children back in school.
“For the parents that do want their children in the classroom, they should have the option and the right to get their kids back in the classroom,” Forest said. “We can figure out how to keep a school clean. Our kids aren’t even at serious risk from coronavirus — [they’re] 17 times [sic] more likely to die from the seasonal flu than they are from coronavirus. Kids are not impacted.”
Beyond the debate, however, the two candidates have utilized television radio advertisements and social media posts to target each other over impactful issues such as race and education.
In one advertisement geared towards the Black, anti-abortion community in North Carolina, the narrator attacks Cooper’s veto of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in 2019. This bill, if it had been passed, would require doctors to attempt to save the lives of any abortion survivors.
“[Gov. Cooper] is OK with [doctors] leaving them on a table to die, a tragedy that hits [Black voters] more than any other,” the narrator said. “Think about that the next time Gov. Cooper says Black lives matter.”
In one of Cooper’s ads, however, the tone is drastically different.
The television advertisement highlights Mike Fulp, a supporter of Forest’s who sold a “Bubba rope” as the owner of 311 Speedway in Stokes County. The advertisement appeared only days after a noose was found in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway. Wallace, NASCAR Cup Series’ only Black driver, had previously been outspoken about the abuse of African Americans by the police and called on NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its events.
“How has Dan Forest responded?” the ad continued. “With silence... Dan Forest is too extreme for North Carolina.”