Thursday, October 10, 2013 10:41 PM
Attorney general hints at run for governor
Democrats call for change in county party's fundraiser
By Corey Friedman | Times Online Editor
Hinting at a possible run for governor in 2016, Attorney General Roy Cooper called on Wilson County Democrats to help restore North Carolina’s reputation as a bastion of progress in the New South.
Cooper accused Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the GOP-led General Assembly of gutting public education and eroding voting rights during a speech at a Wilson County Democratic Party fundraiser Thursday evening.
"I am feeling an energy in North Carolina from the college campuses to the senior centers to Moral Mondays,” Cooper said. "People have an energy because they know that we need to move North Carolina forward.”
‘TAKING HIS TEMPERATURE’
The four-term Democratic attorney general wouldn’t say whether he has decided to seek the Executive Mansion, but everyone from former Gov. Jim Hunt to N.C. Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller offered winking endorsements.
"I am concerned about the direction our state is taking,” Cooper said in a Wilson Times interview before his speech. "We’re spending time on divisive social issues instead of education and a comprehensive jobs program. I want to be a part of changing that. 2016 is a long way off, but it’s important that I play a role in making sure we move North Carolina forward, and that’s what I plan to do.”
The audience at Thursday’s Fall FLING — a shortened form of "For Leadership In Government” — greeted Cooper with a standing ovation. The N.C. Department of Justice head called for Democrats to retake control of state government.
"In 2016, we need to elect a majority in the House and the Senate, and I just might suggest we need to elect a new governor in North Carolina,” he said.
Hunt, a Wilson native and North Carolina’s longest-serving governor, told attendees he had visited Cooper last winter and gauged his interest in seeking higher office.
"I didn’t go in there to convince him to run for a certain thing,” Hunt said. "I wanted to see what he had to say. We call it taking his temperature.”
Hunt praised Cooper’s performance as state attorney general and said his greatest impact on the Tar Heel State may still lie ahead.
"He’s been a great attorney general, a man of great integrity and great ability,” Hunt said. "Roy Cooper is a wonderful North Carolinian who has done great things and who has enormous potential for the future.”
Voller, who chairs the state Democratic Party and is the mayor of Pittsboro, said Tar Heel voters have soured on McCrory since he took office in January.
"I think the honeymoon is over,” Voller said. "If you look at his numbers, they have plummeted faster than Icarus falling from the sun.”
North Carolina’s top Democrat alluded to Cooper as the party’s hope to topple McCrory.
"If we keep it up, we’re going to elect a great governor in this state,” Voller said, "and I think he was here.”
Thursday’s Fall FLING, held at Something Different Cafe on Wilson’s Airport Boulevard, replaces the Silver Lake Oyster Bar fundraiser traditionally held each year at the Silver Lake Restaurant.
"I sense a new awakening of the Democratic Party in Wilson County,” Hunt said. "We’re a two-party county now. We know that, we don’t mind that. We just want to be the best party and win the elections here.”
Hunt said that since taking control of both legislative houses in 2012 and the governor’s mansion two years later, Republicans have hurt North Carolina’s reputation as a state that invests in education and jobs.
"North Carolina’s kind of gotten off on the wrong path, hasn’t it?” he said. "Do you remember the days when we were building this state, becoming one of the most progressive states in America? All over the country, they were talking about North Carolina. They called us the Dixie Dynamo.”
Hunt said just three Southeastern states — North Carolina, Louisiana and West Virginia — reduced budget allocations for public universities last year.
"It is a crying shame, and it is wrong,” Hunt said. "We ought to always invest in our children. We ought to always be building for our future. That’s what God wants us to do.”
Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said voters who elected conservative Republicans to state office seeking a change in direction got more than they bargained for.
"The public is tired,” Marshall said. "Some folks wanted a change, but this is not the change they wanted. They did not know what they were getting.”
Wilson County Democratic Party Chairman Will Farris hoped the new fall fundraising tradition would help reunite the county party.
"We have a lot of work to do,” Farris said. "On a county level, we have a lot of work to do in terms of mending fences and keeping our bond together as one.”
Before introducing Hunt, Farris used stark words to rally the Democratic troops for battle.
"We have a lot of work to do as Democrats,” Farris said. "We have a lot of local Democrats here and a lot of state Democrats here, and the truth is we are under attack and we need to go to war.”
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