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Cooper acts as king in effort to remove statues

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By Holly Audette
Columnist

Monday, September 25, 2017

The man who would be king, Roy Cooper. As Attorney General he was the chief defender of state law. Yet he used his own discretion as to what laws he would defend on behalf of the state. The nonpartisan legislative services staff was asked for an opinion regarding Attorney General Cooper’s refusal to defend a law he politically opposed and they responded that state law required the attorney general, “to appear for the state in any other court or tribunal in any cause or matter, civil or criminal, in which the state may be a party or interested.”

A Los Angeles Times op-ed piece titled, “Can a state’s attorney general pick and choose which laws to defend,” addressed Attorney General Cooper’s exercise of discretion and provided some historical context: “Until 2008, nondefense was almost unheard of. That year then-California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown refused to defend Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state...But now refusals to defend can be a sure-fire means of currying favor with interest groups and voters who fiercely oppose some state laws, and attorneys general wield their control of litigation for political reasons...North Carolina mandates that its attorney general “defend all actions in which the state may be a party” and “represent all state departments.”

The authors concluded, “Attorneys general have always been political creatures and so, in one sense, nothing is new here. And yet states ought not ignore the uptick in nondefenses and charges of lawlessness and bad faith that result from it. They need to reconsider the function of attorneys general and how best to defend the constitutionality of state laws. Indifference to such questions should come to an end.”

As governor, Roy Cooper again acts out as if he is a monarch. This time trying to do an end run around the legislation a duly-elected majority passed prohibiting the removal and relocation of historic monuments without certain conditions being met. In 2015 the state legislature in North Carolina passed a law that requires the permission of the North Carolina Historical Commission before monuments, memorials and markers on public property can be moved, altered or relocated with conditions on their authority over these historic pieces. It passed the State Senate unanimously, then the House and then-Gov. Pat McCrory signed the legislation into law. Gov. Cooper recently requested that the commission remove three statues he finds offensive from the grounds of the state capitol.

State Sen. Phil Berger penned an excellent response to the governor and I will share generously from it. Berger wrote: “Dear Gov. Cooper:...I am curious why you want to move a monument to regular North Carolinians who died during the Civil War (most of whom did not own slaves), a monument of a grandmother and child erected to honor the hardships and sacrifices of North Carolina women during the Civil War, and a monument to an unlucky 19-year-old carpenter’s apprentice from Tarboro who was the first North Carolinian killed in the Civil War – but want to keep the following statues of members of your own political party on state Capitol grounds:

- Democrat Governor Charles Aycock, an avowed white supremacist who, with the backing of the News & Observer, Red Shirts and Ku Klux Klan, helped lead a bloody coup overthrowing the North Carolina governing coalition of Republicans, African-Americans and poor whites.

- Democrat Governor Zebulon Vance, a Confederate colonel from a family that owned slaves who a historian describes as “the leader of a political party that destroyed the promise of Reconstruction and imposed segregation upon North Carolina.”

- Democrat President Andrew Jackson who forcibly removed North Carolina Native Americans from their tribal lands and sent them on the deadly “Trail of Tears.”

This selective outrage is one of the reasons your push to keep monuments in the headlines seems to be more political theater than a principled stand. It smacks of insincerity”.

State law prohibits the Historical Commission from fulfilling the Governor’s request : “An object of remembrance located on public property may not be permanently removed and may only be relocated, whether temporarily or permanently, under the circumstances listed within Section 3.(c) subsection (b) of this law:(1) When appropriate measures are required by the State or a political subdivision of the State to preserve the object. (2) When necessary for construction, renovation, or reconfiguration of buildings, open spaces, parking, or transportation projects”.

The Historical Commission just voted 9-1 to table discussion about Gov. Cooper’s request to remove statues from the state capitol. Apparently the crown Roy Cooper so desperately wants to wear will not be provided to him this week. Hopefully North Carolina voters will find this latest stunt to garner the favor of national liberal interests offensive enough to deny him a role in North Carolina’s governing ever again.

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