Emotions are running high a week after Election Day, as there is still no clear winner in the race to decide the next lieutenant governor of North Carolina.
Republican Dan Forest, who holds a narrow advantage of 11,103 votes out of the 4.3 million-plus already counted, sent emails asking supporters for cash and suggesting an early lead established in unofficial results could be "stolen from us by the unions."
The claim hinges on the counting of provisional ballots – ones cast by voters whose eligibility is in question, often because they lacked ID when registering to vote and on Election Day – but has been batted away as illegitimate by Forest's Democratic opponent, Linda Coleman.
County election boards will count provisional ballots and double-check any questionable ballots, and the possibility of a statewide recount remains alive if the final results put the race within 10,000 votes.
Partisan observers are allowed while provisional ballots are being considered, and that's why Forest supporters were hit with emails from the campaign's finance director, Neal Harrington, and from campaign manager Hal Weatherman.
"We must dig deep and make sure that Dan's victory on election night is preserved and not stolen from us by the unions," Harrington said.
Weatherman chimed in with a couple questions: "Is there any doubt that provisional ballot observations will be stacked with union members?" he said. "Is there any doubt they will spend whatever it takes to legally challenge whatever motion offered during the recount process that does not benefit their candidate?"
The unions at question are the State Employees Association of North Carolina and the Service Employees International Union, which have been ardent supporters of Coleman and among the harshest critics of Forest throughout the campaign. SEANC even launched a website highlighting some of his "extreme" conservative beliefs, and the group reportedly told The Associated Press it will plans to stay involved in the race.
Update: SEANC's political director is helping Coleman monitor ballot counting. The PAC is making an in-kind donation of his time.
Coleman responded to Forest in an email of her own asking her opponent to join her "in protecting the democratic process."
"I believe -- and hope Dan believes -- that nothing is more important than allowing voters' voices to be heard," Coleman said, also likening the moment to a tied baseball game in the eighth inning. "The process (of counting provisional ballots) is fair and impartial, and I trust the law."
Micah Beasley, Coleman's communications director, also pointed out that Coleman has not yet requested a recount and is waiting for official results to make a decision.