Raleigh, N.C. — Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper knows he needs to craft bipartisan deals to accomplish any portion of his agenda in the Republican-dominated General Assembly, and he said Wednesday that he is ready to talk with legislative leaders and work through the details of building coalitions in the General Assembly to do that.
"I will be ready to fight with the legislature when we disagree on issues, but I'll also work with them because I believe the people of our state want us to try to find common ground. They want us to listen to each other," Cooper said during an interview with WRAL News.
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory conceded to Cooper on Monday after contesting vote totals in dozens of counties for almost four weeks. Although the incoming governor readily acknowledges philosophical differences with Republicans, he said it's time to put partisanship aside and work for the betterment of North Carolina.
"Now that we're past this election, let's roll up our sleeves. Let's find where we agree," he said. "The key is not to be close-minded in your position. You can be principled about what you believe in, but you don't have to have a strident ideology. ... I think we've had too much of that."
One such issue is House Bill 2, the controversial law passed last March that limits the rights of transgender people and has resulted in canceled business expansions, concerts, athletic events and conventions.
Cooper has called for the law to be repealed, saying it's "an unnecessary hurdle" for the state's economy.
"I think this law is wrong to start with. I think discrimination is wrong, and this law is wrong," he said. "We may disagree on that. What we should all agree on is that this law is hurting North Carolina's economy and North Carolina's reputation."
Several GOP lawmakers called for a House Bill 2 repeal during the fall campaign, but legislative leaders have remained steadfast that the law will remain in place as long as the Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that prompted it remains on the books. Still, Cooper said he believes he can work through the tangle with lawmakers.
"They know it's a problem for our businesses, and they know it's a problem for our economy," he said.
Cooper said he also wants to work with lawmakers on investing more in public education, which he maintains can be done without increasing taxes. Rather, he said, he would like to see tax rates lowered for middle-class families and small businesses after a couple rounds of cuts for corporations and higher-income individuals.
"Most (business executives) will not ask me what our corporate tax rate is, but most of them will ask me, 'Do you have the people who can perform the jobs I can create?'" he said. "Education has to be the priority because that's how we're going to grow the economy."
Cooper and his advisers have been working on the transition for a new administration since the day after Election Day. On Wednesday, he said Kristi Jones, who has served as his chief of staff for 12 years as attorney general, will continue in that role for him as governor. Also, Ken Eudy, the founder of Raleigh advertising and public relations firm Capstrat, will serve as his senior adviser, while Brad Adcock, a former lobbyist for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, will become his legislative director.
"We want to put a good team in place," Cooper said. "We'll put that team together and go to work."
He said he wants to get a jump on the job by taking his oath of office on New Year's Day, a week before his Jan. 7 inauguration.
North Carolina voters "want a change of direction for our state," he said, and he plans to do what he can to move North Carolina toward that.
"There are so many challenges that we face. We can't spend all our time in these partisan political spats," he said. "We've got to try to come together and work on some things that pretty much everyone would recognize that we need to address."