FILE - North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper talks with Charlie Hale, vice president of Operations & Programs of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, during the governor's tour of the Raleigh, N.C., branch of the food bank, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. Four years after he narrowly won the politically divided state carried by then-candidate Donald Trump, Cooper now has a double-digit lead over his Republican challenger, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. Cooper's reelection path offers clues to what will work for Southern Democrats in an election cycle that also will determine control of the White House and Congress. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP, File)
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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper will participate in the lone gubernatorial debate of the 2020 election cycle at 7 p.m. Wednesday with Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.

The debate comes as the state has seen an uptick in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations after transitioning to a Phase 3 reopening.

Forest, who has long criticized Cooper for slowly reopening schools and businesses, wants the state to ease more restrictions. In August, he announced he wouldn't continue pursuing an unsuccessful lawsuit he filed challenging Cooper’s authority to close certain businesses.

Cooper has frequently chastised Forest for refusing to wear a mask at the large political rallies he's hosted.

Forest has advocated for two additional debates. Cooper agreed to a single debate for Wednesday organized by the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters.

The governor's race is likely to set the pace for Democrats in the South, as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden could benefit from a Cooper victory.