The McCrory vs. Cooper fight for the governor’s mansion begins

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper is expected to announce his bid for the governor’s office Monday evening.
N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper is expected to announce his bid for the governor’s office Monday evening. cseward@newsobserver.com

Looks like the long-awaited McCrory-Cooper gubernatorial showdown is officially on. Or at least it will be as of this evening, when Attorney General Roy Cooper is expected to formally announce his bid to take on Gov. Pat McCrory during an appearance in Rocky Mount.

Given the testy tenor of the run-up so far, expect to get a heavy dose of negative campaign attacks come 2016. Heck, these two camps haven’t even waited for the race to officially begin; they’ve been sniping away at each other for months already.

The N.C. GOP even took Cooper to task for staging his announcement in Rocky Mount, where he once practiced law and served in the General Assembly. Republicans said he’s been in Raleigh so long that he’d need a map to find his way back to Rocky Mount. Of course, they couldn’t resist the temptation to deliver said items to his office as a political stunt.

Let’s hope this “who’s-down-with-eastern-N.C.” theme doesn’t spin itself into a major wedge issue in this election. Charlotte has already gotten hammered by rural and suburban leaders in the GOP-run legislature.

The last thing we need now is a former-mayor-turned-governor looking to keep his distance from us, and an attorney general desperate to prove his rural bonafides.

Despite his deep ties to Charlotte, eastern N.C. means a lot to McCrory. He carried 77 of the state’s 100 counties in his 2012 victory over then-Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, including traditionally Democratic strongholds down east. On the other hand, he also won Mecklenburg by 2,500 votes. That’s turf he’d surely like to keep in 2016.

But will he get as much support this time around, given Charlotte’s travails in the General Assembly? We’ve seen the attempted taking of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, the loss of millions in business privilege taxes, sales tax redistribution, among other things. Will the anti-Raleigh mood here in Charlotte strip him of the good memories his old “Mayor Pat” role evoked among Charlotte voters?

You got a sense that question’s already been asked and answered in his camp. Just consider this ad below, on the N.C. GOP’s YouTube channel, which criticizes Cooper for not seeking a retrial after the mistrial in the murder case of white former Charlotte police officer Wes Kerrick, accused in the killing of Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed black man.

That ad’s not aimed at white Republican voters. It’s designed to tamp down Cooper’s Democratic support in Charlotte’s black community.

Should be an interesting race come 2016. Of course, Cooper must get past primary challenger Ken Spaulding, a Durham lawyer. The GOP clearly believes he will. Eric Frazier