Roy Cooper, now running for governor, has had four terms as attorney general and focused the AG’s office on consumers, on civil rights, on righting some wrongs (the state crime lab) and on clear-eyed service as the state’s lawyer. Cooper has run into an occasional controversy, particularly when Republicans in the General Assembly have passed bad laws they expected him to defend (House Bill 2, same-sex marriage amendment). Cooper attained the proper balance, knowing that while he has an obligation to defend the state, he also is an independently elected official, answerable directly to the people.
Josh Stein, Democrat, served in a senior position in the attorney general’s office for eight years before his election to the state Senate, where he has been a voice of reason. Stein, 50, is Harvard educated and part of a family long active in progressive causes in North Carolina. Now he seeks to become Cooper’s successor. It would be a good choice for North Carolina that would protect the integrity of the office and keep service to the people first on the agenda. Stein has The N&O’s editorial endorsement.
The AG’s office affects in some way almost all North Carolinians, and Stein would come to it with all-important knowledge of how it works and with a clear understanding that the office, while political, is foremost the representative of the people. In the current campaign for governor, Gov. Pat McCrory has often accused opponent Cooper of being guided by his political agenda, but that is rhetoric without much basis.
Stein says he is up against millions of dollars in special-interest support for his opponent, Republican state Sen. Buck Newton, 48, of Wilson, who Stein says has the support of payday lenders (Stein helped drive them out of the state) and gambling interests hoping to get a foothold in the state. Newton regrettably has been supportive of conservative and highly questionable and divisive social issues, evidenced by his sponsorship of Senate Bill 2, which exempted magistrates from doing their duty in performing all marriages if they chose not to. Newton is a hard-right conservative who’s focused mainly on attacking Stein and Cooper.
Stein, by contrast, says he wants to “fight for the people, to be their attorney general.” Certainly he has a track record of doing that while in the AG’s office, and there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t work as attorney general with the same diligence he’s demonstrated in the state Senate. He says he will protect people against excesses of payday lenders, the big banks and the pharmaceutical industry. He touts, rightly, his substantial experience and a long, productive career in public service. He would be a worthy successor to Cooper.