RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina voters put a Republican in the Executive Mansion for the first time in 20 years on Tuesday and weighed whether President Barack Obama could repeat his narrow victory from four years ago in the state.
Former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory won the governor's race over Democrat Walter Dalton with 55 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. McCrory lost to Democrat Beverly Perdue in 2008, when Obama won North Carolina by 14,000 votes. Perdue didn't seek re-election this year.
McCrory will take the oath of office in January. Jim Martin was the last Republican governor, leaving office in 1993.
Private preschool teacher Mary Russ, 43, of Raleigh said her financial circumstances are no better off than four years ago, so she backed Republicans McCrory and presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
"I was pretty much steady" for the GOP candidates, Russ said.
Irene Jones voted for Dalton, although the 57-year-old pastor and bus driver from Zebulon was much more excited about voting for Obama again. She said the men running for governor never got her interested in the race.
"I couldn't tell a lot of difference. I'm OK with either one of them winning. I'm just going to pray that they do a good job once they get into office," Jones said.
Poll workers at more than 2,700 precincts statewide reported few problems, and none of them disrupted voting for long.
Law enforcement quickly determined a bomb threat to three unspecified Cumberland County precincts was a hoax, State Board of Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett said. Power went out to four polling places in High Point, but voting never ceased, he said. Poll workers needed a few minutes to reorganize, then backup batteries on the machines and generators kept power on, he said.
"This has been one of the quieter elections I remember, knock on wood," Bartlett said.
It was a cold and cloudy Election Day across the state, but turnout was steady, Bartlett said. More than 2.7 million ballots already cast through mail-in absentee voting and in-person early voting that ended last weekend.
Bartlett said he expected turnout to be about 70 percent, the same as in 2008. North Carolina has about 400,000 more registered voters than in 2008, and about 250,000 to 300,000 more people were expected to vote, Bartlett said.
Fewer than half the votes this election were expected to be cast on Election Day, but get-out-the-vote efforts remained critical to tens of thousands of volunteers for Obama and for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Voters supporting Romney outside the polls appeared more motivated in 2012 than supporters of John McCain were in 2008. Voice-over talent Pat Crosswhite, 55, of Holly Springs called the Obama administration divisive. She said she held her nose and voted for John McCain in 2008, but was much more excited about a vote for Romney and against Obama this year at the Wake County Firearms Education & Training Center in Apex.
"I think it would be disastrous," Crosswhite said of a possible second Obama term. "I think what he started is terrible. I don't want him to finish it."
North Carolina voters also were poised to elect a new lieutenant governor and seven members of the Council of State, all 13 members of the state's U.S. House delegation and the 170 members of the Legislature. They were also picking a justice on the Supreme Court, three Court of Appeals judges and scores of county commissioners and local bond issues.
The Supreme Court race between incumbent Paul Newby and Court of Appeals Judge Sam Ervin IV was marked by several outside groups that backed Newby collecting at least $2 million for television ads and mailers. While officially nonpartisan, an Ervin win would mean four of the seven justices are Democratic by voter registration. The state's highest court would remain 4-3 Republican with a Newby victory. The court is expected to hear redistricting litigation in the near future.
Associated Press writers Allen G. Breed in Apex and Jeffrey Collins in Zebulon contributed to this report.