Governor Debates: Cooper Stuck on Social Issues, Confused About Taxes

The second and third gubernatorial debates took place on October 11th and 18th respectively. While there were no ‘October surprises’ during these debates, what was surprising were some of the claims made by Attorney General Roy Cooper.

What was not surprising was Cooper’s inability to stay on the topic and instead continual pivoting back to social issues ”“ specifically House Bill 2 (HB2).

In the October 11th The first question thrown out to the candidates in the by moderator Chuck Todd was on HB2 and Cooper didn’t let it go throughout the debate. Todd’s question did not include that the Charlotte Ordinance precipitated HB2.

During that question on HB2, Roy Cooper blamed Governor McCrory for ’embarrassing’ the state and causing economic damage by not repealing the law. Cooper then said, “We have to quit blaming it on other people, blaming it on me, blaming it on the President, blaming it on Charlotte.”

McCrory shot back, “The Attorney General does not refute the claim they started this mess.” McCrory then went on to say that Cooper has, “stated that he is running a multi-million dollar commercial right now saying he still stop talking about social issues. That is all he talks about.” McCory said that all Cooper wants to talk about social issues to mask the states thriving economy.

Cooper has refused to defend the state over the law numerous times and has built his campaign around HB2. Over the course of the last six months, Cooper was noted to have engaged in assisting in the economic blackmail of the state by various businesses. Cooper also interfered with an attempt to reach a compromise on the law.

[Related: The Media Says Pulled Events Are “Because Of HB2.” Here’s The Real Truth.]

It has also been revealed that a campaign contribution of $5,100 was made to Cooper on May 4th by the CEO of Lambda Legal, Rachel Tiven.

According to the 2nd quarter filings for the Cooper campaign, Tiven listed her occupation as “Attorney” with “Immigrant Justice Corps.” and not that of CEO of Lambda Legal. Tiven was named CEO to Lambda Legal on May 2nd, 2016.

Why is that donation a big deal? Lambda Legal is currently suing North Carolina over HB2.

A closer look at the October 11th debate claims by Cooper show a pattern of erroneous answers. Many, if not all of these incorrect claims were repeated during the third debate on the 18th. In the interest of brevity, we’ve consolidated the two events.

Claim: Regarding the state crime lab, Cooper said that he, “ordered an independent investigation, and made sure we got rid of that backlog.”

Fact: It is well-documented that the state crime lab is still not running like it should and that backlogs still exists. As of reports in June of this year, hundreds of rape victims had been waiting between two and three years for their rape kits to be processed. In some of those cases, the rapist has gone free due to the evidence not being processed in a timely manner.

During Roy Cooper’s sixteen years as Attorney General, the issue of the crime lab problems and rape kit processing backlog has been pretty constant. It’s not fixed.

Claim: “Governor McCrory took $500,000 directly out of the disaster relief fund, and you know what that’s for? House Bill 2.”

Fact: It is true that General Assembly did move $500,000 from the Disaster Relief Fund to the Governor’s office for the purpose of defending HB2. It is also true that Governor McCrory did not ask for the transfer nor did he sign the bill authorizing the payment. In North Carolina, unsigned bills laps into law without the signature of the Governor. The Governor did refuse the funds.

It’s also worth noting that the Disaster Relief Fund is now over $1.6 billion dollars – the largest in the state’s history. The last time the Disaster Relief Fund was raiding, it was a joint effort by former Governors Perdue and Easley, pulling out $65 million dollars. At least $3 million went towards ‘projects’ desired by former Governor Perdue. When Hurricane Irene hit, the costs were upwards of $40 million, but the fund was left nearly depleted with a balance around $4 million.

Claim: “Everyday working people got tax increases. Statistics show you are leaving out the middle class.”

Fact: North Carolina’s income taxes were reduced from 7.75% to 5.499%. The most recent budget passed by the General Assembly actually aided middle and lower class families by making the first $17,500 a family earns exempt from income tax for the next two years. Beginning in 2011, the approximate tax relief averaged around $3 billion per year.

Cooper also made the related claim that “Wage growth is stagnant, Governor, whether you like it or not” and “the statistics show you are leaving out the middle class.” These claims are both false.

Over the last year, North Carolina’s wage growth grew by 6.80%. By comparison, the U.S. median household income only grew by 5.47% . Since 2013, the median household income in North Carolina grew 22.25%, whereas the U.S. median income only grew by 10.78%. During the last three years, North Carolina was ranked number one in the country for income growth.

During the third debate, Cooper melted down during the tax questions. Cooper claimed he can improve education and raise teacher salaries without raising taxes. Cooper bashed the current tax cuts in place, but then boasted that as member of the General Assembly, he cut taxes.

WRAL moderator David Crabtree intervened saying that, “I’m trying to understand how you can have it both ways. If you can do that without raising taxes, it would appear these GOP tax cuts you’ve criticized didn’t hurt the budget.”

Watch the exchange:

Claim: “The fact is we are 41st in teacher pay.”

Fact: This is a claim Cooper has made before, both in speeches and in his television ads. He made the same claim during the October 11th debate, failing to mention in all cases that during Governor McCrory’s tenure, North Carolina’s teacher pay ranking rose from 47th to 41st. This ranking number comes from one of the two largest teachers unions in the country, the National Association of Educators (NEA).

Claim: During the October 19th debate, Cooper said, “If you want to talk about political contributions, governor, you’re the one who now has an FBI criminal investigation as a result of — ”

McCrory didn’t let Cooper finish and said, “As attorney general, you should resign right now for saying that. That is absolutely not true. There is no FBI investigation. You should apologize right now.”

Fact: Cooper’s statement that the Governor is under an “FBI criminal investigation” is false. The investigation being referred to was a federal probe into the state’s prison maintenance contracts with a purpose of determining if a political donor to Governor McCrory had been given preference for the contract. The probe was closed on October 19th, with no charges filed against any party involved.

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