Roy Cooper

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Roy Cooper
Gov. Cooper Cropped.jpg
75th Governor of North Carolina
Assumed office
January 1, 2017
LieutenantDan Forest
Mark Robinson
Preceded byPat McCrory
49th Attorney General of North Carolina
In office
January 1, 2001 – January 1, 2017
GovernorMike Easley
Bev Perdue
Pat McCrory
Preceded byMike Easley
Succeeded byJosh Stein
Majority Leader of the North Carolina Senate
In office
July 17, 1997 – January 1, 2001
Preceded byJ. Richard Conder
Succeeded byTony Rand
Member of the North Carolina Senate
from the 10th district
In office
February 21, 1991 – January 1, 2001
Preceded byJim Ezzell
Succeeded byA. B. Swindell
Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives
from the 72nd district
In office
February 9, 1987 – February 21, 1991
Preceded byAllen Barbee
Succeeded byEdward McGee
Personal details
Roy Asberry Cooper III

(1957-06-13) June 13, 1957 (age 64)
Nashville, North Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Kristin Bernhardt
ResidenceExecutive Mansion
EducationUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (BA, JD)
WebsiteGovernment website

Roy Asberry Cooper III (born June 13, 1957) is an American attorney and politician serving as the 75th governor of North Carolina since 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the 49th attorney general of North Carolina from 2001 to 2016. He also served in the North Carolina General Assembly in both the House of Representatives (1987–1991) and Senate (1991–2001).[1]

Cooper defeated Republican incumbent Pat McCrory for the governorship in a close race in the 2016 election.[2] On December 5, McCrory conceded the election, making Cooper the first challenger to defeat a sitting governor in the state's history.[3] Cooper took office on January 1, 2017. The Republican-dominated legislature passed bills in a special session before he took office to reduce the power of the governor's office. The legislature has overridden several of his vetoes of legislation. Cooper was reelected in 2020, defeating Republican nominee and incumbent Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest.

Early life and education[edit]

Roy Asberry Cooper III was born on June 13, 1957, in Nashville, North Carolina to Beverly Batchelor and Roy Asberry Cooper II.[4] His mother was a teacher and his father a lawyer. He attended public school and worked on his parents' tobacco farm during summer.[5] He graduated from Northern Nash High School in 1975.[4] He received the Morehead Scholarship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for his undergraduate studies. He was elected president of the university's Young Democrats.[6] He earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1982.[4]

State legislature[edit]

Cooper as a state senator

After practicing law with his family's law firm for a number of years, Cooper was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1986. He was appointed to the North Carolina Senate in 1991 to serve the remainder of a term of a senator who had vacated his seat. In 1997, he was elected as Democratic majority leader of the State Senate. He continued to practice law as the managing partner of Fields & Cooper in Rocky Mount and Nashville, North Carolina.

North Carolina Attorney General[edit]


Cooper was elected North Carolina attorney general in November 2000 and took office on January 6, 2001; he was reelected in 2004. Cooper was mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2008, but decided to run for reelection as attorney general instead.[7] He was easily reelected, defeating Republican Bob Crumley and garnering more votes than any other statewide candidate in the 2008 attorney general election.[8]

Both state and national Democrats attempted to recruit him to run against Republican U.S. Senator Richard Burr in 2010, but he declined.[9] In 2012, politicians suggested him as a possible candidate for governor of North Carolina after incumbent Governor Bev Perdue announced her retirement, but Cooper declined to run.[10] His political consultant announced in 2011 that Cooper would seek a fourth term in 2012.[11] He was unopposed in both the Democratic primary and the general election.[12] In the November 2012 elections, Cooper received 2,828,941 votes.


Attorney General Roy Cooper in 2009

In January 2007, when Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong asked to be recused from dealing with the Duke lacrosse case, Cooper's office assumed responsibility for the case. On April 11, 2007, after revelations of Nifong's withholding of evidence, fabrications, and other ethics violations, Cooper dismissed the case against the Duke lacrosse team players, taking the extraordinary step of declaring them "innocent" and victims of a "tragic rush to accuse".[13] The decision won him bipartisan praise.[6] Two days after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, he created the Campus Safety Task Force to analyze school shootings and make policy recommendations to help the government prevent and respond to them. The committee delivered its report to him in January 2008. After the release of the task force's findings, Cooper assisted members of the North Carolina General Assembly in passing a law that required court clerks to record involuntary commitments in a national gun permit database.[14]

After a 2010 decision by a three-judge panel to exonerate Gregory Taylor, who had served nearly 17 years for the first-degree murder of Jaquetta Thomas, Cooper ordered an audit after it was learned that officials at the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation forensic lab had withheld information. This suppression of evidence had contributed to Taylor's conviction for murder. The audit was released in 2010; it found that it had been common practice for two decades for a select group of agents at the State Bureau of Investigation to withhold information. In addition, they did not keep up with scientific standards and the latest tests. The two investigators, Chris Swecker and Micheal Fox, cited almost 230 cases that were tainted by these actions. Three people convicted in such cases had been executed; 80 defendants convicted were still in prison. A massive state effort was undertaken to follow up on their cases.

In 2011 Cooper argued his first case before the United States Supreme Court, J. D. B. v. North Carolina, a case related to Miranda rights in juvenile cases.[15][16] The Court ruled 5–4 against North Carolina.[17][18]

Governor of North Carolina[edit]



Cooper campaigning in October 2016

Cooper ran for governor of North Carolina in the 2016 election against incumbent Republican Pat McCrory.[2] In March 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act—commonly known as "House Bill 2"—which McCrory signed into law.[19][20] Numerous corporations began boycotting the state in protest of the law, cancelling job investment and expansion plans.[20] Cooper denounced the law as unconstitutional and refused to defend it in court in his capacity as attorney general.[21]

As a result of the economic damage the law caused, McCrory's approval rating fell dramatically in the months before the election.[20] When initial election results showed Cooper leading, McCrory claimed without evidence that the election had been manipulated by voter fraud. Recounts resulted in slightly higher margins of victory for Cooper,[22] and after an extended legal battle, McCrory conceded the election on December 5.[23] Out of 4.7 million total ballots, Cooper won by 10,227 votes.[24]


On December 5, 2019, Cooper announced his candidacy for reelection.[25] He won the November 3 election, defeating Republican nominee Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest.[26]


Dismayed by Cooper's win, the General Assembly passed special legislation before he was inaugurated to reduce the power of the governor's office.[27] In what The New York Times described as a "surprise special session", Republican legislators moved to strip Cooper's powers before he assumed the governorship on January 1, 2017.[28] Throughout December, Cooper oversaw an attempt to repeal the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act. The repeal attempt failed after a deal between state Republican and Democratic lawmakers and Charlotte officials fell apart.


Cooper being sworn-in as governor of North Carolina

After taking office, as of January 6, 2017, Cooper requested federal approval for Medicaid coverage expansion in North Carolina.[29] Effective January 15, however, a federal judge halted Cooper's request, an order that expired on January 29.[30][31] In his first months in office Cooper focused on repealing the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act. After long negotiations with Republican state legislators, Cooper agreed in late March to sign a law that prohibited North Carolina cities from passing local ordinances pertaining to public accommodations or employment practices for three years in exchange for the reversal of the facilities act.[32] On May 9, 2017, President Donald Trump appointed Cooper to a commission tasked with reducing opioid addiction.[33]

After the Supreme Court of the United States declared North Carolina's legislative maps unconstitutional,[34] Cooper called for a special redistricting session on June 7, 2017.[35] But the House and Senate cancelled the session, calling it unconstitutional.[36] On June 29, Cooper signed the STOP Act, an overhaul of the prescribing and dispensing regulations of opioids.[37]

Governor Cooper, Dan Forest and Thom Tillis meet with President Donald Trump, September 2018

On July 1, Cooper signed a bill to allow alcohol sales after 10 AM on Sundays, nicknamed the "Brunch Bill".[38] On July 11, Cooper signed "Britney's Law", which states a homicide is first-degree murder if the killing was committed with malice and the defendant has been convicted of domestic violence or stalking the victim. He also signed two bills to allow domestic violence protective orders granted by a judge to fully go into effect even when they are under appeal and to expand the state's "revenge porn" law from cases involving former lovers to those involving strangers.[39] On July 12, Cooper signed a bill that would add lessons on what to do when pulled over by law enforcement to the state's driver's education curriculum. The bill passed both chambers unanimously.[40]

On July 26, 2017, Cooper signed a bill to mount cameras on school buses in order to reduce drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses.[41] On August 31, 2017, he declared a state of emergency due to plummeting gas supply,[42] which was rescinded on September 18.[43]

Cooper's fellow Appalachian governors elected him co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission for 2019, making him the first North Carolina governor to co-chair the ARC since Jim Hunt in 1978.[44] In the November 2018 elections, the Republican Party lost seats in the General Assembly, ending its supermajorities in both houses and rendering it unable to override gubernatorial vetoes.[45] On March 6, 2019, Cooper proposed a $25.2 billion budget for the year. It included salary increases for public school teachers and state workers, expansion of Medicaid, and a $3.9 billion bond (subject to a referendum) to help fund school construction and local infrastructure projects. Cooper said that he was confident he could get the legislature, without enough Republican members to override a veto, to implement some of his ideas.[46]

On March 10, 2020, Cooper declared a state of emergency in North Carolina due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[47] Four days later, he issued an executive order banning gatherings of over 100 people, and closed all K-12 schools for two weeks.[48]


Cooper's first veto as governor was of a bill that would make elections to the North Carolina Superior Court and to the District Court partisan, after being conducted on a nonpartisan basis for many years.[49] The House overrode the veto on March 22, 2017.[50] The Senate followed suit on March 23, resulting in the bill becoming law over Cooper's objection.[51]

Cooper vetoed a bill on April 21, 2017, to reduce the size of the North Carolina Court of Appeals by three judges.[52] The veto was overridden on April 26.[53] He also vetoed a bill on April 21, 2017, that would create a new State Board of Elections (and new county boards of elections) split evenly between the Republicans and the Democrats. It would replace the longstanding system that gave the governor's party a majority on the board.[52] Both houses of the legislature voted to override the veto on April 24 and 25.[54]

Cooper also vetoed a bill that would limit individuals' ability to sue hog farms.[55] This veto was also overridden by the legislature.[56][57] On June 27, Cooper vetoed the proposed state budget, which he had called "irresponsible" the day before.[58] In his veto message, Cooper cited the budget's income tax cuts and argued it "lacks structural integrity by failing to account for population growth, inflation and looming federal reductions, by using one-time revenue for recurring expenses, and by adopting a tax plan that will cause the state to fail to fund promised teacher salary increases in future years" and the proposed bill included "provisions that infringe upon the governor's ability to faithfully execute the laws, including the administration of this Act, as required by the Constitution, and violating the separation of powers". The legislature overrode his veto the next day.[59]

In July 2017, Cooper vetoed a bill to authorize nonprofit organizations to operate "game nights", saying it would unintentionally create a new opportunity for the video poker industry.[60]

In December 2018, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill that would require new primary elections if a do-over election was called in the 9th district election.[61] Cooper vetoed the bill due to a provision that made campaign finance investigations less public, but the General Assembly overrode his veto.[62]

In total, during his first two years in office, Cooper vetoed 28 bills, 23 of which were overridden by the legislature.[63]

In May 2019, Cooper vetoed a bill that proposed punishments in the form of prison time and fines against physicians and nurses who do not resuscitate newborns that survive an abortion.[64] He said that the "bill is an unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients"[65] and that laws "already protect newborn babies".[66]

Personal life[edit]

Roy Cooper and his family at a campaign rally, November 2016

Roy Cooper is married to Kristin Cooper (née Bernhardt), who worked as a guardian ad litem for foster children in Wake County.[67][68] They have three daughters, who all graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[69][70] They reside in the Executive Mansion. Cooper has taught Sunday school classes, serving as a deacon and elder at First Presbyterian Church of Raleigh,[71] and is an avid fan of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes.[72]

Electoral history[edit]

2000 North Carolina Attorney General election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Roy Cooper 1,446,793 51.21
Republican Dan Boyce 1,310,845 46.40
Reform Margaret Palms 67,536 2.39
Total votes 2,825,174 100.00
2004 North Carolina Attorney General election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Roy Cooper (inc.) 1,872,097 55.61
Republican Joe Knott 1,494,121 44.39
Total votes 3,366,218 100.00
2008 North Carolina Attorney General election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Roy Cooper (inc.) 2,538,178 61.10
Republican Bob Crumley 1,615,762 38.90
Total votes 4,153,940 100.00
2012 North Carolina Attorney General election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Roy Cooper (inc.) 2,828,941 100.00
Total votes 2,828,941 100.00
2016 North Carolina Democratic gubernatorial primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Roy Cooper 710,658 68.70
Democratic Ken Spaulding 323,774 31.30
Total votes 1,034,432 100.00
2016 North Carolina gubernatorial election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Roy Cooper 2,309,162 49.02 +5.79%
Republican Pat McCrory 2,298,881 48.80 −5.82%
Libertarian Lon Cecil 102,978 2.19 +0.06%
Margin of victory 10,281 0.22 −7.92%
Turnout 4,711,021 68.98 +1.68%
Democratic gain from Republican
2020 North Carolina Democratic gubernatorial primary[73]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Roy Cooper (inc.) 1,128,829 87.19
Democratic Ernest T. Reeves 165,804 12.81
Total votes 1,294,633 100.00
2020 North Carolina gubernatorial election[74]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Roy Cooper (inc.) 2,834,790 51.52% +2.5%
Republican Dan Forest 2,586,604 47.01% -1.8%
Libertarian Steven J. DiFiore 60,449 1.10% -1.09%
Constitution Al Pisano 20,934 0.38%
Total votes 5,502,777 100.0%
Democratic hold


  2. ^ a b "Attorney General Announces Candidacy For Governor". Charlotte Observer. November 6, 2014. Archived from the original on November 8, 2014. Retrieved November 7, 2014.
  3. ^ Dalesio, Emery. "North Carolina Gov. McCrory Concedes He Lost Re-Election Bid". ABC News. Archived from the original on December 5, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c North Carolina Manual 2011, p. 190.
  5. ^ Judson, Andie (December 5, 2018). "Meet North Carolina's next governor, Roy Cooper". WNCN-TV. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Camp, Jon (October 12, 2015). "Attorney general primed to begin run for NC governor". ABC11 Raleigh-Durham.
  7. ^ Andrea Weigl. " Cooper says he won't run for governor". Archived from the original on September 15, 2012. Retrieved June 22, 2008.
  8. ^ "News & Observer: Roy Cooper, N.C.'s most popular Democrat". Archived from the original on January 4, 2015. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  9. ^ Charlotte Observer: AG Roy Cooper says no to Senate race[dead link]
  10. ^ WRAL (January 26, 2012). "Perdue will not seek re-election". Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  11. ^ "News & Observer: Holding may seek attorney general's office". Archived from the original on December 24, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  12. ^ "Daily Reflector". Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  13. ^ Citing 'Tragic Rush,' Prosecutor Clears Duke Players NPR.
  14. ^ West 2014, p. 116.
  15. ^ "Supreme Court site". Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  16. ^ "News & Observer: Court questions N.C.'s position on Miranda warning". Archived from the original on December 25, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  17. ^ "News & Observer: High court rules against NC in juvenile Miranda rights". Archived from the original on December 25, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  18. ^ "High Court: Age Must Be Considered In Legislation". June 16, 2011. Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  19. ^ Link 2018, p. 477.
  20. ^ a b c Weichelt 2018, p. 241.
  21. ^ Link 2018, p. 478.
  22. ^ Link 2018, p. 479.
  23. ^ "North Carolina Gov. McCrory concedes he lost re-election bid". Fox News. December 5, 2016. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  24. ^ Jarvis, Craig (January 24, 2017). "Cooper won, but most of NC was McCrory territory, geographically speaking". The News & Observer. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  25. ^ "NC Gov. Roy Cooper announces he's running for reelection in 2020". The News & Observer. December 5, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  26. ^ Burns, Matthew (November 3, 2020). "Cooper re-elected, Republican Robinson becomes NC's first Black Lt.Gov". WRAL-TV. Capitol Broadcasting Company. Retrieved November 4, 2020.
  27. ^ Fausset, Richard; Gabriel, Trip (December 15, 2016). "North Carolina's Partisan Rift Widens in Fight Over Governor's Powers". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  28. ^ Gabriel, Trip (December 14, 2016). "North Carolina G.O.P. Moves to Curb Power of New Democratic Governor". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
  29. ^ "NC Gov. Cooper: Governor Cooper Tells Washington that North Carolina Will Seek to Expand Medicaid". Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  30. ^ Donovan, Evan. "Gov. Cooper's Medicaid expansion temporarily blocked". WLOS. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  31. ^ "Cooper loses latest round in Medicaid expansion case". January 27, 2017.
  32. ^ Zengerle, Jason (June 20, 2017). "Is North Carolina the Future of American Politics?". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  33. ^ Andrew, Joseph. "White House names new members of opioid commission". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  34. ^ "Supreme Court Rejects 2 N.C. Congressional Districts As Unconstitutional". May 23, 2017. Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  35. ^ "Gov. Roy Cooper calls for a special session to redraw district voting maps". ABC11 Raleigh-Durham. June 7, 2017.
  36. ^ "NC House, Senate cancel Cooper's call for redistricting special session, calling it 'unconstitutional'".
  37. ^ Bethany Moore (July 18, 2017). "Gov. Cooper signs STOP Act to fight opioid epidemic". Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  38. ^ Chris Ruffin (June 30, 2017). "Gov. Roy Cooper signs "brunch bill"". Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  39. ^ WWAY TV3. "Cooper bills against domestic violence into law". Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  40. ^ "Cooper vetoes casino night bill, signs traffic stop legislation". July 12, 2017.
  41. ^ "Cooper signs bill to mount cameras on school buses". July 25, 2017.
  42. ^ Athans, Elaina; Brown, Joel (September 3, 2017). "Colonial Pipeline now projecting to reopen Monday". ABC11 Raleigh-Durham.
  43. ^ "North Carolina governor rescinds state of emergency". Archived from the original on September 20, 2017. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  44. ^ "NC Gov. Cooper: Governor Cooper to Serve As 2019 Appalachian Regional Commission States Co-Chair".
  45. ^ Tiberii, Jeff (November 7, 2018). "Republicans Lose Supermajorities In North Carolina General Assembly". WUNC. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  46. ^ "Cooper confident he now has leverage to get more from lawmakers in budget". Capitol Broadcasting Company. March 6, 2019. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  47. ^ "NC Gov. Cooper: Governor Cooper Declares State Of Emergency To Respond To Coronavirus COVID-19".
  48. ^ Featherston, Emily. "Governor Cooper orders closing of all N.C. public schools, bans large gatherings". WECT.
  49. ^ "NC Gov. Cooper: Governor Cooper Signs Veto of House Bill 100".
  50. ^ "House votes to override Cooper veto of partisan judicial elections bill". March 22, 2017.
  51. ^ Boughton, Melissa (March 23, 2017). "NC Policy Watch". Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  52. ^ a b "NC Gov. Cooper: Governor Cooper Vetoes House Bill 239 and Senate Bill 68".
  53. ^ "NC General Assembly: House Bill 239 / S.L. 2017-7". Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  54. ^ "Lawmakers override Cooper again; combine elections, ethics oversight". April 25, 2017.
  55. ^ "Cooper Vetoes Hog Farm Protection Bill". May 5, 2017. Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  56. ^ Cory Mannion (May 11, 2017). "House overrides Governor Roy Cooper's veto on nuisance lawsuit caps. Senate comes next". Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  57. ^ GARY D. ROBERTSON, Associated Press (May 11, 2017). "Legislature overrides Cooper veto on hog farm odor lawsuits". Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  58. ^ "Cooper vetoes budget – and hints at another lawsuit". Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  59. ^ Rodriguez, Gloria (June 28, 2017). "Lawmakers override Cooper's budget veto". ABC11 Raleigh-Durham.
  60. ^ "NC Gov. Cooper: Bill Signings for July 12, 2017".
  61. ^ "After fraud probe, new NC primary may replace GOP candidate | Elections". December 16, 2018. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  62. ^ "North Carolina lawmakers override veto of elections bill". TheHill. December 27, 2018. Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  63. ^ "Will second half of Cooper's term be more productive than first?". January 2, 2019.
  64. ^ "Fact-checking claims about abortion and 'born alive' bill". PolitiFact North Carolina. Retrieved May 15, 2019.
  65. ^ Cooper, Roy (April 18, 2019). "Governor Roy Cooper Objections and Veto Message". State of North Carolina. Retrieved May 15, 2019. ... unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients.
  66. ^ Jason Hanna. "North Carolina governor vetoes 'born alive' abortion bill". CNN. Retrieved May 15, 2019.
  67. ^ Kristin Cooper. "My dad Capt. Sam Bernhardt with the 7th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, Cu Chi, Vietnam, '66-'67. When he was drafted, he closed his medical practice & left his wife & 4 young children to serve his country. Thanks to every veteran for your service & sacrifice. -KC #VeteransDay". Twitter.
  68. ^ Davis, Corey (August 7, 2018). "Service project aids foster kids". Rocky Mount Telegram. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  69. ^ "N.C. First Lady Kristin Cooper will be 2017 commencement speaker". Saint Mary's School. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  70. ^ Colvard, Bill (June 9, 2018). "Franklin grads, NC first lady reconnect". The Mt. Airy News. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  71. ^ Bennett, Tom (October 26, 2019). "A Democratic Governor's Rural Strategy: Highways for Trump Counties". Daily Yonder.
  72. ^ Observer, Luke DeCock Raleigh News &. "Gov. Cooper a homegrown Canes fan". Winston-Salem Journal.
  73. ^ "NC SBE Election Contest Details".
  74. ^ "NC SBE Election Contest Details".

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]

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Preceded by
Allen Barbee
Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives
from the 72nd district

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Edward McGee
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