After several years of state government scandals, both candidates for N.C. attorney general say they will push for new measures to help catch public corruption.
Voters will have to decide who is more capable of making that happen – a two-term incumbent who helped put some of those officials behind bars, or a self-described serial entrepreneur who takes pride in his problem-solving skills as a former county manager and now as head of a law firm and a real estate developer.
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Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat from Nash County, is a veteran lawmaker who has led the office since 2001. Republican Bob Crumley of Asheboro is chairman and CEO of a law firm with 13 Carolinas offices, and served as Randolph's county manager five years out of law school.
Cooper is running on his record as the state's top prosecutor, and he's been busy shutting down methamphetamine labs, suing the Tennessee Valley Authority for polluting Western North Carolina's air, and looking for ways to keep sex offenders from preying on kids. Crumley launched his campaign nearly three years ago because he says Cooper has not moved fast enough to solve problems.
The race has been relatively quiet. Neither faced a primary challenge and much of the public's attention has been on high profile races for president, governor and U.S. Senate. But in recent days, both men have started running TV ads.
Crumley is airing a 15-second “Fight Back” ad that suggests crime is on the rise and directs viewers to a Web site he's paid for that includes videos resembling news reports that attack Cooper.
Meanwhile, Cooper's ad cites what may be his most famous moment in office – the day he announced the dismissal of charges against three Duke University lacrosse team members falsely accused of raping an exotic dancer. The ad ties that case to his efforts to modernize evidence-gathering methods that help convict the guilty and clear the innocent.
Crumley said the attorney general's staff and reports should be more accessible. He said SBI investigations into police shootings, deaths in a state facility or wrongdoing by state employees generally should be made public. Cooper has said SBI reports should remain confidential.
Cooper rolled out a new Web site that allows the public to track convicted sex offenders and succeeded in getting a law passed that keeps cold medicines containing a key ingredient for methamphetamine production behind the counter. He also expanded the SBI's crime lab to speed up the processing of DNA evidence.
He said he is seeking a third term to follow through on the work he's done.
“There's more that needs to be done to keep North Carolina safe,” Cooper said. “We've started some exciting initiatives, and I want to make sure they are finished.”
Crumley describes nearly all of Cooper's accomplishments as too little too late. He said that DNA case work had fallen way behind, methamphetamine crime had exploded, and the Duke lacrosse case had long fallen apart by the time Cooper got involved.
“I have not run into a single judge or a single district attorney who is saying, ‘Bob, you're crazy. Mr. Cooper is doing a great job,'” Crumley said.