Raleigh, N.C. — With the 2016 election still more than three years away, Democratic state attorney general and gubernatorial hopeful Roy Cooper is already warming up his stump speech and ratcheting up the rhetoric.
Cooper posted a column Tuesday at left-leaning news site Huffington Post, blasting the state's Republican leadership for a laundry list of political stances, from election law and tax law changes to school vouchers and Medicaid.
"In ten short months, they have set out to deliberately and systematically undo fifty years of progress. It's as if the Tea Party created its own playground of extremist fantasies," Cooper wrote. "This is not the North Carolina that any of us recognize.
"The damage that has been done to North Carolina cannot be understated. But as (former Gov.) Terry Sanford said in that speech fifty years ago, 'North Carolina is not going to be left behind," he wrote. "He was right then and he's right today. North Carolina is better than this. We must turn this around and move forward. As North Carolinians have seen and experienced this year, the alternative is unacceptable."
The column moved quickly on social media, especially among disheartened Democrats looking for party leadership.
The North Carolina Republican Party, on the other hand, called it a "far-left diatribe."
“North Carolinian taxpayers aren’t paying Roy Cooper his salary to hit the campaign trail for three straight years and write op-eds for liberal media outlets, and those seem to be the only things he’s doing these days," GOP Chairman Claude Pope said in a statement. "Cooper’s blatant politicization of the Attorney General’s office, and his increasingly politically-motivated words and actions, are unprecedented in North Carolina’s history.
“Roy Cooper has given up on his job as Attorney General and is now fully devoting his energy to winning the Democrat primary on the taxpayer’s dime by taking up far-left positions and convincing the fringe of his party that he’s a diehard liberal,” Pope wrote.
Cooper and Republican leaders have crossed swords several times recently over his outspoken opposition to laws his office requires him to defend, especially voter ID and the 2012 constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions. Cooper announced Monday he personally supports marriage equality.
While Cooper has repeatedly said he will perform his duty of defending state laws despite his personal opinions about them, Republican leaders have openly questioned whether his defense will be as rigorous as possible.