Editorial: Cooper Does Not Deserve Our Vote

Editorial: Cooper Does Not  Deserve Our Vote
September 19
00:00 2014
AG Roy Cooper

AG Roy Cooper

(pictured above:  Kalvin Michael Smith’s dad, August Dark, hugs Darryl Hunt as Larry Little looks on from nearby.)

It is a forgone conclusion that Attorney General Roy Cooper will run for governor next year. He’s all but interviewed interior decorators to redo the Governor’s Mansion.

Cooper’s also been given the gold medal by many prominent Democrats, even though he has yet to suit-up for the 2015 primary race, where he will face at least one challenger – former State Rep. Ken Spaulding. N.C. Democratic Party Chair Randy Voller drew complaints from the head of the party’s African American Caucus and others earlier this year when he declared Cooper the next governor, without so much as a mention of the much-respected Spaulding.

Thankfully, in our system, the people, not the kingmakers, decide who wins elections. We certainly understand why many are excited to the point of overzealousness about Cooper. Three years under Gov. McCrory’s regime will do that. But Cooper has to run on his own record and not simply as the McCrory alternative. And his record is not spotless. It is shameful, in fact, as it relates to Kalvin Michael Smith, the black Winston-Salem man who is serving a decades long sentence for a crime he surely did not commit.

The chickens will come home to roost for Cooper. The attorney general’s callousness toward Smith and his blatant disregard for the truth will come back to bite him in the backside next year – if not in the primary, then certainly in the general election.

The playbook Winston-Salem Police and prosecutors used for Smith was the same one they followed when Darryl Hunt was charged and convicted 30 years ago. The cooked-up charges against Hunt – who, like Smith, was a black man accused of a heinous crime against a white woman – nearly cost him his life. Yet, our local law enforcers are still somehow under the illusion that their system of justice is solid – infallible, even.

DA Jim O’Neill

DA Jim O’Neill

We expect Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill and his acolytes – who include African American assistant DAs who should know better – to see their work through rose-colored glasses. After all, he and his folks complained the loudest about the now defunct Racial Justice Act, arguing that there’s no such thing as racial bias in the criminal justice system. Despite the fact black men wrongly convicted of murders, rapes and other nasty crimes are being exonerated almost monthly, O’Neill and Company would still have you believe that the system is colorblind, that the blindfold on Lady Justice never slips to allow her a peek.

O’Neill’s livelihood depends on keeping up this absurd ruse. He runs a factory whose finished product is prison-bound, shackled black men. The majority (white) population rewards this work with their votes, and not just for O’Neill. It is quite likely that yet another one of O’Neill’s assistants, Ted Kazakos, will be elected to the District Court bench this fall to, of course, rule blindly and impartially.
O’Neill’s a lost cause, but we expect more from Cooper. He owes black voters for his long tenure as attorney general. (All elected Democrats, in fact, owe black voters for their jobs.) His decision to stand by Smith’s conviction in the face of overwhelming evidence that the wrong guy was charged is akin to giving the black community the middle finger.

In essence, he is telling us that a black man isn’t worth his time and undeserving of an all-out effort to find the truth. Compare and contrast his actions in regard to Smith to those he took when it became clear that a black woman was lying when she accused white Duke lacrosse players of rape. Cooper swooped in like Superman to take over the investigation; saw that Mike Nifong, the DA who dared to charged rich white boys for raping a black woman, was not only disbarred, but jailed; and gave the nod of approval for a multi-million settlement for each of the accused players, though none scarcely saw the inside of a jail cell. Smith is seemingly undeserving of such heroics.

Cooper has received criticism from Republicans for his refusal to defend the ban on same-sex marriage that state voters passed a couple of years ago. We want to know why he can’t assert such boldness in the Smith case? Why can’t he refuse to defend this unjust verdict and insist on a new trial for Smith?

The answer is obviously politics. Cooper fears Willie Horton-style campaign ads next year from his critics more than he fears losing black support. Every black voter should be offended by that. Democrats like Cooper are so used to getting black votes without even working for them that black voters have become afterthoughts, something to think about maybe after the soccer moms and Hispanics are shored up.

Cooper needs a wake-up call. Black voters must send him the message that it is not OK to sacrifice one of ours for the sake of his political career. Kalvin Michael Smith, after all, is our brother, father, cousin, uncle. If Cooper won’t stand up for this black man, he’ll remain seated and tight-lipped when it is our loved one’s fate on the line.

Besides, if Cooper has no strong convictions and lacks the passion to stand for what is right and just, replacing McCroy with him would be a zero-sum game.

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