North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. File photo.
Written By: Clarke Morrison
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (ACT) - Attorney General Roy Cooper told supporters that he wants to restore North Carolina's reputation as progressive leader in the South.
That standing has been decimated with the Republican takeover of the legislature and the election of Gov. Pat McCrory last year, he said.
"In just nine short months, they have set out to deliberately and systematically undo 50 years in progress in North Carolina," Cooper said.
"For the first time since Reconstruction, we have a General Assembly and governorship controlled by the extreme faction of the Republican Party, and their legislative supermajority means their power is virtually unchecked."
Cooper, now serving his fourth term as the state's top law enforcement officer, was keynote speaker for the annual Western Gala Breakfast put on by Democratic Women of Buncombe County. More than 200 people, including elected officials and party leaders from across the state, attended the event at the Renaissance Hotel.
Asked at the conclusion of the gathering whether he will run for governor in 2016, Cooper said: "It's a little early to make a formal announcement, but certainly that's in the plans."
Cooper said decades of progress in the state have been reversed with the policies implemented by GOP lawmakers.
"You know what they've done: tax giveaways for the top 1 percent instead of real tax breaks for working North Carolina families, an end to child care tax credits, election law changes that made it harder for North Carolinians to vote, overcrowded classrooms for public school teachers and layoffs for teacher assistants."
Cooper said the slashing of funding for public universities and community colleges has led to "an exodus of talented faculty," while the refusal of state lawmakers to accept federal money for expansion of Medicaid means less health care for working people and the poor.
He also decried the "gutting" of environmental safeguards that protect air and water quality.
"This is not the North Carolina that any of us recognize," he said. "The decisions that are being made by this governor and this legislature are affecting real people. We know that they have spent so much time on these divisive social issues instead of caring about education and jobs."
Cooper drew a standing ovation when he declared that "in 2016, we're going to elect a new Democratic governor. That is when we take our state back."
"People are paying attention," he said. "They know we cannot let the extreme faction of the Republican Party hijack our state."
Randy Voller, chair of state Democratic Party, praised Cooper as being "of the people."
"What we have in North Carolina right now is a crisis," he said. "We don't want to turn this state back. We don't want to be at the bottom."