Spaulding aggressive in Cooper faceoff

Spaulding aggressive in Cooper faceoff
February 11
00:00 2016


If one wondered why State Attorney General Roy Cooper has consistently ignored challenges by Durham attorney Ken Spaulding to debate prior to the March 15 Democratic gubernatorial primaries, their first, and so far only, face-off last Friday gave good reason.

Both men sat next to each other during the N.C. Democratic Party African-American and Hispanic Caucuses debate on Jan. 29 before a packed room at the Goodwin House. Spaulding stayed in the hunt, accusing the state attorney general of everything from colluding with the Republicans in defending the controversial Voter ID law in court, to not doing his duty in deciding not to retry a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black motorist in September 2013.

Cooper, for the most part, remained calm and stoic amid Spaulding’s blistering attacks, showing virtually no emotion at all. Spaulding, however, remained fiery, not only taking his opponent to task, but also assuring voters that he is a man of the people, not a career politician, and that North Carolinians would have a fair man as governor if he was nominated after the March primary to defeat Republican incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory Nov. 8.

At stake during the debate were black and Hispanic Democratic voters, who comprise over 40 percent of North Carolina’s Democratic base.

For Hispanic voters, both Spaulding and Cooper said they supported President Obama’s immigration policies, despite Republican opposition in Congress. They also objected to Gov. McCrory joining a lawsuit against Obama’s Executive Action on immigration.

Both Cooper and Spaulding vowed that if elected, they would strive to make their respective cabinets and administrations as diverse as possible.

“That’s what we should be about, being inclusive,” Attorney General Cooper said, indicating that he already has a diverse office. “The first thing we have to admit is that racism does exist.”African-American being the governor of North Carolina,” Attorney Spaulding said to applause. “Those who serve in my administration are going to be African-American, going to be Latino, going to be within the white community. [They] will be very qualified people. Even unaffiliated.”

When asked what they would do as governor to improve the economy of North Carolina without hurting low-income and middle-class families, Spaulding said he was already doing it by helping to attract an estimated $2 billion in investments to the state, bringing with them thousands of jobs. He added that he supported business incentives, including film industry incentives in Wilmington.

Attorney General Cooper blasted Gov. McCrory for signing legislation that provided “… big tax giveaways to out-of-state corporations at the expense of the middle-class and our public schools.” Cooper accused McCrory of supporting a “… tax structure that makes it harder on everyday hard-working people.” Cooper said if elected, he would stop that, invest in North Carolina’s public schools, pay teachers more, and promote economic development plans in “minority communities” and rural areas.

The political fireworks began when both candidates were asked if they supported the reinstatement of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) in Congress, and if elected governor, would they lead the fight to have the 2013 N.C. voter restrictions repealed if Democrats take back the N.C. General Assembly.Spaulding said that he would “absolutely” have the N.C. voter restrictions repealed, calling them “unconstitutional.” But then the Durham attorney and former state lawmaker lit into Cooper.

“My opponent sitting with me today, he’s been in court with the Republicans, fighting on behalf of them, and against the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the people of North Carolina, on a constitutional issue he did not have to represent the state on,” Spaulding charged.

“So I want you to understand, there is a clear distinction here. My opponent has been on the wrong side of this issue.”

Unfazed, the state attorney general told the audience not only does he “strongly” support efforts in Congress to reinstate the 1965 VRA, but that his office joined with the N.C. NAACP in filing an amicus brief in court supporting the VRA.

“There is no question that I’m very much opposed to the voter restrictions that were put in place by Gov. McCrory and the Republican leadership,” Cooper said, reminding all that he sent a letter to McCrory to veto the law.

The state attorney general indicated that despite his personal opposition to Voter ID, his office is obligated to defend the state any time it is taken to court, as in the case of the federal trial in Winston-Salem where the voter ID case wrapped up Feb. 1.

“It is the duty of the office of attorney general to defend the state when it gets sued. One of the reasons why I am running for governor is I am sick and tired of the laws that are being passed by this governor, and this General Assembly. What I want to do is change it,” Cooper said.

As to how, as governor, each man would address high unemployment rates among African-Americans and Latinos, Cooper said beyond investment in improving education, he would push for a living wage to help lift people out of poverty, and better employment opportunities.

Attorney Spaulding said he supports raising the minimum wage to $15.00/hour. “At the end of a Spaulding term, we will have that done,” he pledged.

In his closing remarks, Cooper thanked people for coming out to “this spirited and very informative forum,” a clear reference to the attacks from his opponent, Ken Spaulding. Cooper did state categorically that “Gov. McCrory has the wrong priori-ties for North Carolina.”

Spaulding, in his closing two-minute remarks, continued to put heat on Cooper. The Durham attorney denied being “an angry black man,” but did describe himself as “… having passion about these issues.”

“I’m a fighter for the people. I’m a fighter for those who are voiceless. I don’t run away from my ethnicity. Black lives do matter. As an African-American or black man myself, my life does matter. And I disagree with an attorney general, who in Charlotte with the [Police Officer] Kerik [shooting unarmed black man] case, where you had an opportunity to have a second trial, when a young man who graduated from Florida A & M, was shot 10 times and killed, and they couldn’t summon up enough energy, enough effort, to be able to have a second trial. That’s not right!”

Spaulding went on to openly challenge Cooper to “stand up strong, and make sure that our criminal justice is one for all North Carolinians.”

Attorney General Cooper was offered the opportunity to defend his decision not to pursue a second trial, but he declined.

Currently, Cooper is leading Spaulding substantially in the polls, and neck-and-neck with Gov. McCrory. Attorney Spaulding has been campaigning for governor for the past two years.

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