by Locker Room contributor
I’ve been ruminating about the news surrounding Attorney General Cooper — searching for a list of “winners” and “losers.”
Whether you believe the consumers and taxpayers of North Carolina will turn out to be winners probably depends on your political philosophy. I suspect the A.G. will have more time to focus on his current job during the next two years than he would have had conducting a gubernatorial campaign. Still, we can expect to him to hit the road for some campaigning — at least in 2008.
As for the political implication of the announcement:
WINNERS: Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, Treasurer Richard Moore, Rep. Bill Faison, and any other Democrat who wants to move into the governor’s mansion.
Cooper was not the front-runner in any of the polls that have received major media attention, and he’s trailed Perdue and Moore on the fund-raising trail. But he’s a telegenic candidate who comes across well during speeches and presentations. He has plenty of contacts from his legislative days, as well as his nearly six years as attorney general.
Plus, the example of current Gov. Mike Easley shows that the attorney general’s office provides one of the most effective platforms within state government for launching a gubernatorial run. The attorney general can push for new tough-on-crime laws targeting meth labs and other demons. He can serve as a resource for the little guy who gets scammed. And he can tout his efforts to reduce the statewide crime rate.
That’s a lot more exciting than presiding over the Senate, handling the state’s investments, or serving along with 119 other people in the House.
Cooper might not have won a Democratic primary, but the other contenders won’t have to worry now about how his day job could give him a boost in the public’s eye.
LOSERS: 1. Republicans who want Cooper’s current job. Election day is still more than two years away, so challengers have time to pick apart Cooper’s record. But he already has won two statewide elections, and he’ll have the power of incumbency working for him.
2. The N.C. GOP. As recently as 2000, Republicans held none of the ten seats on the Council of State. Now they hold three, and they came within about 8,000 votes of winning a fourth seat in 2004. There’s no guarantee Republicans would have won another council seat in an open race for attorney general in 2008. But at this date, the task looks a little more difficult.
3. Democrats who want Cooper’s job. As I’m writing this note, Hampton Dellinger still has a website promoting his run for the attorney general’s office in 2008. A private lawyer now, he’s a former chief legal counsel to the governor and a former deputy state attorney general. I’ve also heard Scott Thomas’ name mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for attorney general. He’s the former state senator who resigned this year to take the D.A.’s job back home in Craven County. Either of these men — or other candidates — could challenge Cooper in a primary, but that’s unlikely.
Feel free to add to the list or to offer other alternatives.