Roy Cooper decided to run for governor after watching Gov. Pat McCrory serve only four months. That was all it took for the state attorney general to see not only that he could win, but that he must win. McCrory’s lack of leadership, conviction and competence was evident that early. The years that followed have only made it more so.
Fortunately for North Carolina, Cooper offers an abundance of what McCrory lacks. He has served in the legislature and led the Department of Justice for 15 years. He stands by his principles and he knows how to get things done in state government.
Cooper, 59, a North Carolina native from Nashville, knows the rural and urban sides of the state. He’s committed to fairness in taxation and serving the state’s needs and its neediest. The Democratic nominee respects the state’s tradition of political moderation and leadership on civil rights and access to voting. He doesn’t see the governor’s role as leading a competition against neighboring states. He sees it as ensuring that the state meets its own standards and values. He has the background, judgment and temperament to bring North Carolinians back together by bringing North Carolina home.
It’s stunning in retrospect to think that most North Carolina voters once saw many of those qualities in Pat McCrory. During 14 years as mayor of Charlotte, McCrory, 60, was a moderate, urban Republican, a man seen as one who could work across party lines while bringing a fresh perspective to a state government long controlled by Democrats. He promised a more open government that would stress efficiency and service and spur the state’s economy. But he began on a sharply partisan note, appointing the conservative advocate Art Pope as his budget director, naming former Wake County school superintendent Tony Tata as his transportation chief and selecting the wealthy Republican contributor Dr. Aldona Wos to oversee the Department of Health and Human Services, despite a a lack of qualifications.
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From those first missteps, McCrory has continued in a nonstop stumble. He declared tax reform must be revenue neutral and then signed tax cuts that favoring corporations and the wealthy that are costing the state more than $1 billion a year. He fell in with anti-Obama zealots in opposing Medicaid expansion, costing the state billions of federal dollars and ignoring the unnecessary suffering of those who can’t afford medical care. He’s backed voting restrictions that federal courts have found discriminatory against African Americans. And, fittingly, the stumbling governor has spent the last seven months defending House Bill 2, an anti-LGBT law that has hurt the state’s economy and image while serving no practical purpose. He could have avoided this issue with the stroke of his veto pen. Instead he has staked his governorship on it.
The governor, of course, tells a different story. He says his dynamic leadership has delivered $4.7 billion in tax cuts and spurred a “Carolina Comeback” that has seen 300,000 new jobs created since he took office. But there’s no evidence that handing back millions of dollars to the wealthy and stockholders has helped the economy. The economy’s improvement is part of a national recovery. And an additional 300,000 jobs – many of them low paying – only keep up with the state’s population growth.
Roy Cooper will come to the governor’s office with something McCrory has never had: A clear set of goals. He will improve funding for public schools. He will focus on addressing the needs of rural North Carolina. He will push to expand Medicaid and protect the environment. He will advocate for fair taxation and spending levels that meet the needs of a growing state. And he will veto – no doubt often – the unconstitutional bills coming out of a legislature led by reactionaries.
Republicans have attacked Cooper for failing to defend those constitutional laws. They say he’s not doing his job. But Roy Cooper knows the job North Carolinians need him to do – serve as governor.