Gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper talks about the challenges North Carolina faces, prioritizing education and, of course, HB2
McCrory Opts Out
Editor’s Note: We asked both gubernatorial candidates the same seven questions based on what readers are talking about. After showing initial interest Governor Pat McCrory’s campaign did not submit their answers. As a result, we are publishing Mr. Cooper’s responses only.
What are the three top challenges facing North Carolina in the next four years? And, how do you plan to address the issues as Governor?
I am running for Governor to set a different course for North Carolina by prioritizing policies that help everyone, not just the select few. This means better jobs, improved public education, and more economic opportunities for working families.
I’m running for Governor because I know our state’s potential, and Governor McCrory continues to put his partisan political agenda ahead of working North Carolinians. We need to create good new jobs, prioritize public education, and raise incomes for middle-class families. Our wages are stagnant, the cost of college is skyrocketing, North Carolina is losing out on attracting enough high paying jobs, and our schools are starved for resources. Yet, Governor McCrory passes discriminatory laws like House Bill 2 in the dark of night, costing our state thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Most North Carolinians agree on increasing teacher pay and improving public school education. As of May, we have moved to 41st in the nation for average teacher pay (ranked 42nd last year) but the dollars spent per student has actually decreased. What are your specific plans for improving education?
As Governor, I will make public education a priority. Many teachers are leaving the state, our students aren’t getting the resources they need, and our classrooms are overcrowded. I have released a comprehensive education plan to improve education in North Carolina from cradle to college. We need to respect our teachers, and that starts with giving them the pay they deserve. And, we need to make sure we have the workforce training programs in place to help us with better paying jobs, with jobs of the future, and the jobs that we’ll need years from now. I will be a Governor who delivers on the promise of a world-class education for every student in North Carolina.
Some suggest that North Carolina is a divided state. As Governor, what would you do or continue to do to mend partisanship?
We do have two North Carolinas. And if you travel in the rural parts of the state, you know the deep economic despair that we have in many of our counties. Unemployment is still way too high. And while our two largest cities, Raleigh and Charlotte, are growing, we must address the fact that both still have double-digit poverty rates. We must have a strategy to lift our rural areas up, but we can’t do it by tearing down the urban areas, or pitting communities against each other. We need to be growing the pie, not spending a whole lot of time figuring out how to divide it.
Different groups have voiced concerns that we have not seen the extent of the economic impact of HB2 yet, and it will affect the State more in the coming year. How do you plan to mitigate potentially adverse economic affects?
I will work to make sure that people know that HB2 does not reflect who we are as a state. We must create a welcoming, inclusive business environment or employers may not come. But it’s not just employers we need to welcome; we also need to win the war for talent. Unfortunately, our governor has been driving both away with a divisive, partisan political agenda.
Governor McCrory signed House Bill 2 into law in the dark of night, without giving the public, or even legislators, time to review or debate the legislation. Since signing the discriminatory legislation into law, we have seen our state lose the NBA All-Star game, thousands of jobs, and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.
And meanwhile, the Governor has continued to double down on this discriminatory legislation, signaling to companies and talent that are thinking about North Carolina that we are not open for business.
According to a recent statewide poll by HPU, healthcare affordability is the second most important issue to NC voters. How do you plan to address the increasingly high cost of health insurance?
One of the first and biggest economic shots in the arm we can do is to expand Medicaid in our state. It hurts when Governor McCrory refuses 100 percent of the federal dollars to expand Medicaid to many working people. Many Republican governors nationwide have said yes to health care for the working poor, but families are being left without a safety net because Governor McCrory is putting his partisan political agenda ahead of North Carolinians. Medicaid expansion will not only support essential services, it will create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, help keep rural hospitals open, and help private employers keep their premiums lower.
Donald Trump has made immigration a cornerstone in his campaign, proposing a wall. North Carolina was ranked 8th in “Unauthorized Immigrant Population” in 2014 and has seen an increase in its foreign-born population over the last decade. What are your views on immigration for NC?
Immigration is a federal issue that needs a federal solution. Unfortunately, what we’ve seen time and again is a Congress that is frozen in partisan gridlock and they’ve not been able to come up with a solution to this problem. It’s hurting the states; it’s hurting local governments, it’s hurting our economy. Most businesses want to comply with the law but we don’t have good guidance or decisions from the Federal Government.
Another problem is the inflammatory rhetoric that is being used by Governor McCrory and the presidential candidate he supports, Donald Trump. They’re using this issue to divide people. We have to understand how vital the immigrant community is to our economy. In 2010, 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants. And, Hispanics alone generate $7.5 billion in spending power in North Carolina annually. As Attorney General, I know how important it is that we enforce the law. I also know we have to be a welcoming state and I believe we can do both.
Jobs are another issue that North Carolinians are focused on this election. Unemployment is at a low 5.1 percent; however, NC ranks 12th in terms of highest poverty rates. How will your economic policies help increase wages for those living under or at the poverty line?
As Attorney General now, I am working to recruit good businesses in North Carolina and I am urging them to come and expand despite their opposition to HB 2. As governor, I will work to repeal HB 2 and restore the worker protections that were taken away by Governor McCrory so that this legislation is no longer an obstacle to economic growth.
I believe that if you set priorities, you can do a lot. While I believe that we will have some changes in the General Assembly, I think it is important that the Governor work with the elected representatives who have been elected by the people. And, I think it’s important to have leaders who can understand that partisan barbs come and go but that you have to shove that aside, and you have to sit down at the table, and you have to roll up your sleeves and say “Where do we agree?”
I know a lot of Republicans who believe in public education, who believe in our great state universities and community colleges. I know a lot of Republicans who believe in expanding Medicaid. I know a lot Democrats who believe in a strong business climate that can create better paying jobs. I know a lot of people in both parties who believe that we must work together for North Carolina. I know because I’ve worked with both parties in the past as a state legislator working with a Republican house and as Attorney General working with both Republican and Democratic sheriffs and district attorneys.
I think people are tired of the partisanship and the stonewalling. And, I think we must have leaders who are willing to put all that aside.
As Governor, I will work to put the interests of all North Carolinians first. ν