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Trump backs Dan Forest in governor’s race

By BRYAN ANDERSON
Associated Press/Report for America

RALEIGH — President Donald Trump has endorsed the Republican who is aiming to deny Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper another term.

Trump said via Twitter late Thursday that he was supporting Lt. Gov. Dan Forest to unseat Cooper in the November election.

Trump blames Cooper for scuttling the Republican National Convention, which was planned for Charlotte in August, after the governor refused to assure the president that he’d be able to speak to a full capacity crowd. Cooper imposed limits on mass outdoor gatherings to 25 people and indoor gatherings to 10 people at least through July 17 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Governor of North Carolina, @RoyCooperNC, made it absolutely IMPOSSIBLE for the Republican Party to have its Convention there — and we all love the State,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Millions of Dollars, & JOBS, lost by State. VOTE FOR @DanForestNC!”

The president decided last month to pull major convention activities, including his nomination acceptance speech, from Charlotte and is now scheduled to speak in Jacksonville, Florida.

Cooper refused to endorse a Democratic presidential candidate in this year’s March 3 primary. But on Friday, Cooper’s campaign told the AP that the governor will actively promote former Vice President Joe Biden’s bid for president.

“Governor Cooper supports Vice President Joe Biden for president and looks forward to campaigning with and for him over the coming months,” said a statement from Liz Doherty, spokeswoman for Cooper’s re-election campaign.

On Friday, the state hit a record high single-day increase in COVID-19 cases at about 2,100 confirmed cases. The number of people currently hospitalized also hit a new high of around 950. Adding to concern among public health officials is the high rate of tests coming back positive, which hit a high of 11% on Friday.

Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said in a Thursday news conference that the state has the personal protective equipment it needs to meet the current demand but worries it doesn’t have enough testing supplies, such as reagents, to process COVID tests quickly.

As the November election nears, reopening restrictions continue to limit Trump’s ability to hold large rallies in North Carolina, a key swing state.

Trump, who held a rally last month in Tulsa, Oklahoma, would be unable to host large campaign events in North Carolina for at least another two weeks under Cooper’s directive and health guidelines from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Forest took to Twitter on Thursday to thank the president for his support and express concern about Trump’s inability to host crowded campaign events.

“This shutdown is clearly targeted at keeping @realDonaldTrump YUGE rallies out of our great state,” Forest wrote. Forest is suing Cooper to challenge his authority to issue executive orders that have shut down parts of the state’s economy.

Trump’s endorsements have been met with mixed results in North Carolina. In September 2019, then-state Sen. Dan Bishop won the Ninth Congressional District special election race by 2 percentage points. Trump hit the campaign trail for Bishop leading up to the election and had endorsed him four months earlier.

But last month, a Trump-backed candidate suffered a sizable defeat in a congressional primary race. Madison Cawthorn, a 24-year-old real estate investment CEO, defeated Lynda Bennett in a major upset by a 2-to-1 margin for the GOP nomination in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District.

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Follow Anderson at https://twitter.com/BryanRAnderson
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Anderson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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