RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Democrat Roy Cooper on Monday took steps to demonstrate he's the winner of the still-unresolved race for North Carolina's governor, presenting key members of his transition team and turning up the pressure on incumbent Republican Pat McCrory to concede.
Cooper, the state's outgoing attorney general, has said repeatedly that he won the race. Democratic lawmakers held news conferences across the state Monday to bolster Cooper's message, saying there is no way that McCrory can win.
"By any definition, Roy Cooper has won this election," U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., told reporters in Raleigh, adding that McCrory "is continuing to show his defiance and his stubbornness that he has shown the world over the last four years."
Cooper said in a statement that with the next governor expected to take office in early January, "it would be irresponsible to wait any longer to tackle the issues we campaigned on across the state." He also brought online a website for people interested in working for his administration.
Unofficial results from the State Board of Elections late Monday put Cooper ahead of McCrory by about 6,500 votes from nearly 4.7 million cast. That is up from about 5,000 votes on election night two weeks ago. Cooper claims the margin is wider and will be reflected as counties complete their formal tabulating.
More than 20 of the 100 counties had performed their canvassing by Monday evening, state board data show.
McCrory, however, shows no signs of giving up. His campaign points to formal protests in dozens of counties alleging absentee fraud and ineligible.
McCrory's campaign is supporting formal protests in at least 35 counties that allege potential miscounts, absentee ballot fraud and ineligible votes cast by dead people or convicted felons. A spokesman says Cooper wants to bypass the legal steps for examining votes.
"Instead of insulting North Carolina voters, we intend to let the process work as it should to ensure that every legal vote is counted properly," McCrory campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz said in a statement.
While several county boards have rejected protests, a few early ballots have been put aside because a voter hadn't completed their felony punishment or had died before Election Day. The State Board of Elections revealed Sunday a data search determined more than 300 convicted felons may have voted unlawfully statewide during early voting.
The state board also has been investigating allegations that roughly 150 absentee ballots were filled out in Bladen County unlawfully by a handful of people linked to a local PAC.
Except for a protest over the counting of 94,000 early votes in Durham County — rejected unanimously by the local board — the number of ballots at issue in other disclosed protests is less than the race's current margin.
Once all 100 counties complete their tabulations, probably by early next week, the trailing candidate can seek a statewide recount if the margin is 10,000 votes or less.
Top leaders of the North Carolina Association of Educators and State Employees Association of North Carolina, which both backed Cooper for governor, also chimed in Monday to tell McCrory it's time to give up.
The State Board of Elections scheduled a hearing Tuesday to receive opinions from political parties and the McCrory and Cooper campaigns about how it should advise county boards on whether they can throw out ineligible votes that aren't subject to formal protests.
Greensboro attorney Jim Phillips and Kristi Jones, Cooper's chief of staff at the Department of Justice, are the transition team co-chairs. The team's executive director is Ken Eudy, a Raleigh public relations firm executive, former state Democratic Party executive director and newspaper reporter.