All eyes were on the North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice race Friday as most of the state’s 100 counties completed their canvas and reported final vote totals.
The race went narrowly back and forth between Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, a Democrat, and her Republican challenger, Justice Paul Newby for most of the day and into the evening.
When Guilford County, the state’s third largest, submitted its final totals Beasley was ahead by exactly 100 votes – 2,694,874 to 2,694,774.
That lead shrank as the night wore on and final canvas results were uploaded, ending the evening with Beasley just 35 votes ahead of Newby.
A half dozen smaller counties have yet to officially complete their canvases — Craven, Duplin, Perquimans, Robeson, Rockingham and Sampson. They will not do so until next week.
Throughout the day Democrats held onto the hope that Beasley’s totals in the more left-leaning Guilford County would give her a substantial edge in the race. With mail-in and provisional ballots still to be totaled in the smaller but more conservative counties, Beasley’s slim lead looks fragile.
The race looks likely to be headed for a recount, whoever ends it on top. State law allows for a recount request if a statewide race’s margin is less than half a percent or fewer than 10,000 votes, whichever is less.
The Republican party has already announced it intends to ask for a recount and Newby’s campaign filed a protest late Thursday in New Hanover County, asserting that certain mail-in ballots there should not be counted. The protest is one of several filed by Newby
Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, maintained his lead over Republican challenger Jim O’Neill by 14,336 votes late Friday.