Spaulding, Cooper almost face off at event

Spaulding, Cooper almost  face off at event
November 19
00:00 2015
Above: Photos by Cash Michaels- N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooperand former State Rep. Ken Spaulding speak during the Bi-Annual Convention of the African-American Caucus of the Democratic Party last Saturday morning in Chapel Hill.

By Cash Michaels

For the Chronicle

The closest state Attorney General Roy Cooper and former State Rep. Ken Spaulding have come to a debate thus far was last Saturday morning in Chapel Hill during the Bi-Annual Convention of the African-American Caucus of the Democratic Party. Indeed, caucus members from across the state passed a resolution urging both Democratic candidates for governor to schedule debates prior to their March 15th primary date next year.

Spaulding, a successful Durham attorney from a prominent African-American family, has been running for the opportunity to be the party standard-bearer to unseat incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory since he began his candidacy two years ago. He’s also been challenging Cooper to debates since the attorney general announced his candidacy over a month ago.

Thus far, Cooper has ignored Spaulding’s challenges, so after he addressed caucus members at the Sheraton Europa Saturday morning, with Spaulding sitting right in front of him at a table, Cooper said ‘Thank you,” and immediately headed for the door.

But not before Spaulding, who followed with his remarks, opened with a rhetorical jab, publicly challenging the attorney general to stand and debate.

“Well I see that the attorney general is leaving,” Spaulding quipped before Cooper could leave the room, as many in the room chuckled. “The true meaning of run and hide,” later adding, “Run right out of this meeting … hide from a debate, will not debate me. I wonder why?”

During his earlier remarks to statewide caucus members, Cooper reiterated how North Carolina’s gubernatorial race in 2016 will be “the most watched” in the nation, given the state’s high political profile. He blasted Gov. McCrory and the state Legislature for helping rich people at the expense of the poor, and how that had to change. Cooper also talked about his upbringing in Eastern North Carolina, and the values of hard work and fairness that he learned then, and still carries on today.

He made no acknowledgment of opponent Spaulding, who was sitting right in front of him as he spoke and asked for the statewide caucus’ support.

During his remarks, however, Spaulding immediately sought to distinguish himself from the attorney general, calling him the “establishment candidate” of the state Democratic Party who already had the support of most prominent black elected leaders across the state.

“Let me say to you that I’m not a politician. I’m not going to [stand] here and say the politically correct things to say,” Spaulding declared. “I want to be a public servant, and in the process of that, I think you want a candidate who’s going top be his true self, and tell it like it is. This is not a beauty contest.”

Noting that Cooper had said that he was the “best candidate to beat McCrory,” a defiant Spaulding disagreed, noting that Cooper’s campaign has deliberately acted as if Spaulding doesn’t even exist.

“We are having a Democratic primary. Before he can get to any Pat McCrory, he has to come through Ken Spaulding!” he said.

The former lawmaker reiterated that he is not a career politician “like Cooper,” who Spaulding said spent at least 30 years in public office, some in the NC General Assembly, and at least the last 15 as state attorney general. Spaulding portrayed himself as “one of the people,” a black businessman who has created jobs and has to meet a payroll. As an attorney for 45 years, Spaulding said the contracts he’s negotiated during that time have brought “over two billion dollars of private investment” to the state, also creating “thousands of jobs.”

As a state representative, Spaulding spent six years in the legislature and on the state board of transportation for four years, but has been in the private sector for the past 30 years.

“So no, I have not been privileged or entitled,” Spaulding said, then immediately blasting the attorney general for allowing his office to represent the state in arguing to defend the 2013 voting rights restrictions passed by the Republican legislature, and defending Republican efforts to do away with teacher tenure and establish private school vouchers that threaten public school funding and promote school resegregation.

“This is what these politicians do, make you believe that they are on top of these issues,” Spaulding said.

He then further blasted Cooper for being in charge of the State Bureau of Investigation when it had a major controversy several years ago in its crime lab not properly processing evidence, possibly leading to false convictions of innocent people.

“This is what happens when you do not do your job as attorney general,” Spaulding charged.

Then Spaulding criticized Cooper for deciding not to retry the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer that fatally shot an unarmed black man, Jonathan Ferrell, in Sept. 2013, after a jury deadlocked on the case. The attorney general had said that based on the jury leaning towards acquittal, he felt it would have been fruitless to try the case again.

“If North Carolina wants someone to be straight with them, to care about them, to deal with the issues that impact their lives, not for political reasons, but because you want to serve the public, then you will have the next governor of North Carolina be Ken Spaulding,” he said.

Then Spaulding ended his remarks by declaring, “If this man [Cooper] will not debate Ken Spaulding, what in the world do you think he’s going to do against these Republicans when it comes to … Pat McCrory in that race? Don’t be afraid of me. Don’t be scared of me.”

The African-American Caucus elected Linda Wilkins-Daniels as its new state president, and Jaymes Powell Jr. as the new first vice president

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