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North Carolina Races For President, Governor, Senate, Run Close In Swing State


North Carolina politics have been in the national conversation a lot this year. The state passed legislation limiting the civil rights of LGBT people and a controversial state voter ID law which would have curtailed early voting. It was struck down in July. Now two Republican incumbents, Governor Pat McCrory and Senator Richard Burr, are in close races with their Democratic challengers. Democrat Hillary Clinton holds a slight lead in this state over Republican Donald Trump. To talk more about the political landscape in this all-important battleground state, we reached Anna Douglas on the line from Charlotte, N.C. She covers politics in the state for McClatchy. Anna, thanks for being with us.

ANNA DOUGLAS: Hi, Rachel. Thanks.

MARTIN: Let's start with Governor Pat McCrory. He was a popular mayor of Charlotte who went on to win the 2012 gubernatorial election by a lot, by 12 points. Now he's at risk of losing to State Attorney General Roy Cooper. What happened to make it so close?

DOUGLAS: Well, sure. I mean, this was always destined to be a close race for Pat McCrory. And I would say just look at North Carolina's electorate. The state has had significant population growth. Voters who weren't here 10 years ago or even four years ago, when Pat McCrory was first elected governor, they're here now and they make a difference. And a good portion of those new residents are swing voters. And many of them lean left. So, you know, one reason that Pat McCrory's race is so close right now is that he may have lost some of those independents and persuadable Democrats with HB2, which you just mentioned, signed into law about seven months ago.

MARTIN: All right, let's pivot. Let's talk about Richard Burr. Senator Burr is also in a close contest. How come?

DOUGLAS: Well, you know, he also is struggling a little bit with the moderate vote. I think maybe it's not as big of a problem for Richard Burr as it is for Governor McCrory. November 8 will certainly tell us the answer. But, you know, recent polling is suggesting that Richard Burr is up. And you contrast that to Hillary Clinton being ahead of Donald Trump in North Carolina, with Roy Cooper in the gubernatorial race with a slight advantage. I think what you're seeing here is that for the most part, voters are perhaps just unfamiliar with Richard Burr. I don't really know how else to explain that he's the only Republican at the top of a ticket who is still polling ahead as we close into November 8.

MARTIN: Hillary Clinton, though, still has a slight lead over Donald Trump in most state polls. Unclear, though, whether or not her lead has made a difference for Democratic Senate candidate Deborah Ross, even though that race is close. Why that split among Democrats?

DOUGLAS: Well, Deborah Ross will benefit from some of Hillary Clinton's coattails in North Carolina. But I think that that difference that you're talking about likely comes down to voters and residents in North Carolina just paying more attention to the presidential race.

And we see that some moderates and some voters are - excuse me, some Republican voters are disaffected by Donald Trump. So, you know, you're going to see those people vote for Hillary Clinton, but they may turn around and vote for Richard Burr. So that'll be very interesting to watch the results roll in in North Carolina on November 8.

You know, and it's not to say that Deborah Ross is - she's running against - she's in a different position than Hillary Clinton and Roy Cooper because she's running against someone who has largely kept his head down. You know, Richard Burr tends to stay out of the limelight. He's not seen as a firebrand in North Carolina. So she has a little bit of a different challenge. But again, I would go back to the fact that both Deborah Ross and Richard Burr have low name ID.

MARTIN: Anna Douglas. She's a reporter for McClatchy. Thanks so much, Anna.

DOUGLAS: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.