Campaign 2016: 9OYS talks one-on-one with Roy Cooper

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The race for North Carolina governor has been one of the most heated from the beginning. Polls continue to swing back and forth between incumbent Governor Pat McCrory and Democratic challenger Roy Cooper.

For Cooper, the interest in politics began at a young age. His parents played a big role in that interest.

“They were always involved in somebody’s campaign for something because they knew that public service was important,” Cooper said.

Cooper served in the state House and Senate before taking over as the state attorney general in 2001.

He grew up in Nash county in a quiet neighborhood in Nashville. He said his parents instilled in him the value of saving money and working hard from a young age. He said he would bring those values taught to him in the East to the governor’s mansion if given the chance.

He passed up runs for governor in the past, but said when Pat McCrory was elected, things changed quickly.

“It took me only 6 months of Governor McCrory’s term for me to recognize that I had to run for governor,” said Cooper.

One of the most important issues for Cooper is education and fully funding teachers in the classroom. He said McCrory’s tax breaks for the wealthy have hurt teachers.

Cooper said he has a history of working across party lines to get things done. He believes many of the state’s problems can only be fixed with bi-partisan legislation.

“I know a lot of Republicans who support public education,” he said. “I know a lot of Democrats who want to build a good business atmosphere.”

Cooper also wants to put more money in taxpayer’s pockets by growing the economy from small business up. He criticized McCrory’s campaign slogan of a Carolina comeback.

“You ask everyday working people whether they have seen a Carolina Comeback like Governor McCrory talks about,” Cooper said. “Most of them will tell you they are working longer, and harder, and for less money.”

But perhaps where the two men disagree the most involves House Bill 2, the center of a controversy that brought the state into national headlines.

“I said the day it was being debated that it was going to be a disaster for North Carolina,” said Cooper. “That it was going to be bad news and that we did not need to do it.”

Cooper stands with Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and President Obama on the issue. He believes it discriminates and hurts the state.

Since then, Republicans have criticized Cooper for refusing to defend the law and do his job as attorney general.

WNCT asked him to respond to the allegations.

“Doing your job doesn’t mean appealing every case to the United States Supreme Court,” answered Cooper. “And, of course, when the governor did it at taxpayer expense, it failed.”

As attorney general, Cooper has also faced heat for backlogs with the state crime lab, something he said was much worse when he took office.

As governor, he wants to continue improvements.

“One of the things I would do as governor is [to] make sure resources are provided for more scientists,” said Cooper.

So what would a Cooper administration look like for you?

“I want a North Carolina that works for everyone, that values public education, that’s inclusive and wants us to move forward, and I’m ready as governor to do that,” said Cooper.

On Tuesday, WNCT-TV 9 On Your Side will sit down with current Governor Pat McCrory to talk about the issues affecting voters.

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