CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Months of polling data showing Republican Pat McCrory leading Democrat Walter Dalton in North Carolina’s gubernatorial race were vindicated on Tuesday as the former 14-year Charlotte mayor sailed past Dalton to become the state’s first Republican governor in 20 years.

Republican Pat McCrory represents all that is wrong with the regressive, hostile policies of North Carolina’s GOP. Screen capture courtesy UNC-TV and NCABEF.

As of 9 p.m. and with just 15 of the state’s 100 counties reporting, The Associated Press projected that McCrory had won over Dalton.

McCrory had been leading Dalton by double-digits in the weeks before the election. As election day neared, that lead dropped to around seven or eight points, enough to put McCrory over the top.

Dalton, the state’s current lieutenant governor, faced a short and tough primary campaign against¬†former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge and state Rep. Bill Faison.

Dalton was endorsed by the Equality North Carolina, the statewide LGBT education and advocacy organization.

Stuart Campbell, Equality North Carolina’s executive director, told qnotes he hopes his organization will be able to effectively work with McCrory even though the new governor-elect’s record on LGBT equality issues isn’t perfect.

“We’ve had conversations about that,” Campbell said. “I’m hoping that the more moderate Pat McCrory will come back after the election is over.”

As Charlotte mayor, McCrory often stymied LGBT progress on issues like employment non-discrimination and domestic partner benefits. Locals had also long complained that McCrory often turned a blind eye to LGBT community organizations and events. As a gubernatorial candidate, McCrory publicly supported an anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment passed by voters in May.

McCrory, like other candidates, said Campbell, ran as a business-friendly leader. If McCrory truly means it, Campbell says he’ll have to consider the positive business impact of LGBT inclusion.

“If he is seriously interested in bringing in the next generation of companies to North Carolina, like the Googles and the Apples, he will have to pave the way for the next generation of workers as well,” Campbell said. “Those workers are going to demand a fair and equal workplace. We intend to make that point.”

Campbell says the state’s and nation’s political culture is changing. Younger voters care less about LGBT and other issues.

“If Republicans want to retain their majority or if they want to continue to be elevated, they have to realize LGBT issues are becoming less and less of a wedge issue,” Campbell said. “Seventy-percent of students and young people don’t care about LGBT issues. [Republicans] will no longer be able to run alone on social issues like that.”

The challenges presented in working with an unfriendly governor is added to Equality North Carolina’s already troubled relationship with the state legislature. Republicans took control of the General Assembly in 2010, leading to the approval of an anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment in May. Campbell says his group is constantly monitoring lawmakers for any hostile legislation.

“Hopefully we can work with whoever is the governor,” Campbell said. “It’s certainly not going to be without a challenge.”

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.