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Attorney General Bypasses Governor Run For Re-Election

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RALEIGH, N.C. — State Attorney General Roy Cooper has told supporters he plans to seek re-election in 2008, bypassing a potential run for governor.

In a letter dated Monday, the Democrat said he still had plenty of work to do as the state's top law enforcer. Cooper, who took office as attorney general in 2001, was viewed as one of three leading candidates for the party's nomination.

"As attorney general, I love the challenges that each day brings, and I get up every morning excited about helping make North Carolina a better and safer place to be," Cooper wrote.

Some political observers believe Cooper wanted to avoid a divisive battle of Democrats running for governor.

"In political circles across the state, folks have been saying a three-person race will be a brutal Democratic Party primary," said Democratic political consultant Brad Crone.

Democrats will have held the governor's mansion for 16 years when Gov. Mike Easley leaves office in January 2009 after serving two terms.

Cooper's decision means the 2008 Democratic gubernatorial primary "looks like a Perdue-Moore race," said David McLennan, a political science professor at Peace College in Raleigh. "They have big war chests."

Perdue and Moore both entered 2006 with more campaign money in the bank than Cooper. His campaign had nearly $1.57 million on hand, Perdue had $1.07 million and Cooper $722,000.

Cooper, 49, still is young enough to consider another gubernatorial run at a later date, McLennan said.

"A three-way race makes things a little messier," he added. "This keeps Cooper in play a little bit longer."

Cooper, who declined comment through a spokeswoman, highlighted his work to improve DNA collection efforts, reduce methamphetamine labs and to protect children from sexual predators.

"I've never had a job like this that gives me the opportunity to make such a significant difference in people's lives every day," he wrote.

Perdue, who joined the Legislature with Cooper in the mid-1980s, praised Cooper for his work as attorney general.

"I'm real glad that Roy's doing what he wants to do," she said in an interview.

Jay Reiff, a political consultant for Moore, said Cooper is "an outstanding attorney general, and you have to respect his decision to continue serving in that role."

Reiff said Cooper's departure "certainly opens the field" for 2008. He predicted that Moore would keep a fundraising advantage over Perdue when campaign finance reports were filed with the State Board of Elections later this month.

In response, Perdue has said her campaign committee has exceeded its fundraising goals

Among Republicans, state Sen. Fred Smith, R-Johnston and Salisbury attorney Bill Graham are considered possible candidates in the 2008 race.

Another potential candidate, Rep. Sue Myrick, R-NC, squelched rumors that she would run for governor, announcing her plans to seek a seventh term in U.S. Congress.

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