Monday, what was obvious became official. Roy Cooper will challenge Pat McCrory to be North Carolina’s governor. And even though their race has officially just begun, both camps have been building significant war chests.
The polite and proper thing to say is there was speculation North Carolina’s attorney general would run for governor in 2016. But really there was little doubt. The North Carolina Republican Party was so certain of it that Cooper was the target of their first attack of the 2016 election. It came via email less than 12 hours after the 2014 election ended. They even grabbed the 'RoyCooperForGov' name on twitter, it’s now a parody account.
Still, it’s clear Cooper has been essentially running for governor for quite some time. There are the press releases sent out under the generic “Roy Cooper for North Carolina” which have regularly have called out Governor McCrory. And asked for donations. Enough came in that roughly nine weeks before he announced "I am a candidate for governor of North Carolina," his campaign had just over $3 million cash on hand according to its 2015 mid-year fundraising report with the State Board of Elections. That’s an impressive sum since the election is more than a year away.
And it’s more than what the sitting governor's campaign has in the bank. The McCrory campaign has just over $2.4 million ready to spend. But that doesn’t mean Governor McCrory is the underdog in this race. The latest Public Policy Poll of the race show’s McCrory with a 3 point lead in a head to head race. Just above the margin of error.