Attorney General Roy Cooper reiterated his opposition to House Bill 2 on Thursday amid political volleys from Gov. Pat McCrory about a document Cooper’s office filed last week in the federal lawsuit challenging the controversial law.
By midday, the attorney general’s office characterized criticism from the governor’s office as misleading. McCrory’s campaign then called on Cooper to resign as attorney general “for gross incompetence.”
Late last week, Cooper’s office filed a request for an extension of time to respond to the lawsuit brought last month by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the federal Department of Justice.
Because the state was named in the case as a defendant, Cooper’s office filed a request on Friday for extra time to respond to the legal challenge being watched by many across the country.
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The federal justice department suit also named McCrory, the state Department of Public Safety and the UNC system and its board of governors.
But because the state was named in the case and no other private attorneys were representing North Carolina at the time, Cooper’s office took an action within days of the deadline to respond to the federal complaint. The state otherwise would have been left unrepresented or had a judgment against him entered for a lack of response.
In a statement released Thursday after the governor’s office called the attorney general’s action “an attempt to undermine the state’s position,” Cooper’s spokeswoman said his office “has informed counsel for the Governor that this office gives him permission to represent the state.”
“This is just more misinformation from Governor McCrory on the truth about HB2,” campaign spokesman Ford Porter said in an email. “The Attorney General has been consistent that he will not defend this bad law. The Attorney General’s Office’s court filing just asked for an extension of time for the state to answer. Attorney General Cooper continues to stand against this discriminatory law that is driving jobs and people away from our state.”
Porter’s response was to a release sent out earlier on Thursday by McCrory’s press office.
“Both the Attorney General and his campaign made public statements as recently as yesterday that undermine the state’s position and contradict the legal filings by his office,” the governor’s press office said in a statement. “Therefore, in light of the conflicting statements by the Attorney General, Governor McCrory filed notice in federal court that his administration intends to represent and defend the State of North Carolina in its lawsuit.”
McCrory’s campaign weighed in later Thursday, criticizing Cooper’s handling of the situation.
“First he’s not defending North Carolina, then he was, now he says he’s not,” campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz said in a news release. “Roy Cooper should resign immediately not only for gross incompetence, but also the serious professional and ethical conflicts of interests he has brought upon himself by siding with the Obama administration instead of defending North Carolina.”
Diaz cited the example of Robert Morgan, a Democrat who resigned as attorney general in 1974 to focus on his campaign for U.S. Senate.
Cooper’s campaign responded as part of a volley between campaign camps that continued throughout the day.
"It’s clear that Governor McCrory will go to any length and say anything to avoid taking responsibility for his disastrous discrimination law that is costing North Carolina thousands of jobs and millions of dollars,”Porter said. “North Carolinians deserve better."