N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper Wednesday gave Charlotte Democrats a preview of his probable 2016 campaign for governor, calling the election “a battle for the heart and soul of North Carolina.”
“That’s when we take the state back from the extremists,” he told the Democratic Uptown Forum.
Cooper, 57, stopped short of announcing his candidacy to challenge Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. But just barely.
Asked later by reporters whether he was in the race, Cooper said, “It’s too early to make a formal announcement, but I’m concerned about our state and I’m clearly making plans.”
“We need to get through the November elections” before any formal declaration, Cooper said.
Former state Rep. Ken Spaulding, a Durham Democrat, already has announced for the seat.
In his remarks at the Levine Museum of the New South, Cooper attacked McCrory and the GOP legislature without ever mentioning the governor or any other Republican by name. He said both are “not just conservative but extremist.”
He singled out their decisions to cut taxes, which he said disproportionately favors the rich, allow tax money for private schools and cut education spending in many areas. He called their rejection of Medicaid expansion their “most economically reckless decision.”
“We have to beat them at the ballot box ,” he said. “We cannot let these extremists hijack North Carolina.”
N.C. GOP Chairman Claude Pope said Cooper “should focus on his day job.”
“We haven’t even finished this election and already he has his eyes on the next one,” Pope said in a statement. “But if Cooper wants to keep holding these political pep rallies, he should step down as Attorney General so he can campaign full time. He can even keep the A.G. title – Aspiring Governor
“Roy Cooper has been a part-time Attorney General and a full-time candidate for months now. He can save us all the time by declaring his candidacy now.”
Wednesday isn’t the first time Cooper has made his intentions for 2016 clear.
In January, he created a website at takebacknorthcarolina.com. A short video includes news clips about McCrory and the General Assembly’s voting changes and other actions. Cooper, looking into the camera, criticizes GOP actions.
“They’ve waged a culture war against women and minorities and just about anybody else who doesn’t think like they do,” he said.
Cooper, in his fourth term as attorney general, had $1.25 million in his campaign account at the end of June. That was slightly more than McCrory had in his.