Governor Cooper reflects on first year in office in WITN interview

EASTERN CAROLINA, NC (WITN) Wednesday marked one year since the 2016 general election that saw Democrat Roy Cooper defeat Republican Pat McCrory for governor here in North Carolina.

Much of the campaign, and the early part of Cooper's administration, was dominated by HB2.

But it's been a busy year on a number of other fronts as well.

WITN's Dave Jordan sat down with Governor Cooper for a one-on-one interview, to get his take, as he nears the completion of his first year in office.

Cooper says, "I've been so honored and humbled to serve as governor of North Carolina."

After defeating McCrory last November, Cooper was sworn in just after midnight on January first of this year.

Cooper says, "I'm positive about where we're headed and I feel good about our state right now."

His administration started off dealing with a winter storm, even postponing inauguration festivities.

You might say the storm he's run into since then has been the Republican legislature, particularly following his 13 vetoes.

Cooper says, "They have overridden ten of them. Three of them they have not been able to override yet."

While Cooper says he and the Republican legislature have significant differences on issues like education funding, and tax cuts, they have been able to work together. He says, "I've seen fit to sign hundreds of bills where we have come to agreement."

Economic development is one of those areas. In fact, the governor points to job creation as his signature achievement so far, saying his administration has created 14,000 jobs, 1,200 of them in eastern Carolina, with more to come.

Cooper made this prediction. "I do know that eastern North Carolina is a place where we will be able to locate advanced manufacturing that will create thousands of jobs. We're working now to attract a number of companies that are global in nature."

The governor says job creation was difficult with HB2 on the books. He says the so-called bathroom bill cost the economy hundreds of millions of dollars. But repealing it didn't come easy, the governor even admitting the fix wasn't perfect, and facing criticism for it from the LGBT community. It's why he recently issued an anti-discrimination executive order, which was soundly criticized by the Republicans. While the governor says there's still work to do, he wants the state to get past this issue.

Another big issue facing the state is security for prison employees after a worker was attacked and killed at Bertie Correctional, and four more were attacked and killed at Pasquotank Correctional.

Cooper says, "That's unacceptable. We have to re-examine where we are and we're going to take an overall comprehensive look."

Also getting a comprehensive look is the opioid crisis.

The governor is among those appointed by President Trump to a national opioid commission.

But when it comes to his thoughts on the president, Cooper says, "I have deep concerns about the leadership of the president. I have deep concerns about the security of our country."

He also feels like there hasn't been much accomplished legislatively in Washington, DC. He says, "There hasn't been a lot done right now, I mean Congress is in sort of a paralysis. So I think the real difference is going to have to be made at the state level."

A task that at times has been difficult and challenging, but not says the governor, even in such divisive and cynical times, impossible. He says, "I'm a prisoner of hope. I am about this state and about this country. We still live in the greatest country in the world with all of its faults and we all got to work to make it better."

While it may still be early to announce plans for the 2020 election, Cooper did say he plans to be governor for a long time.

He also says, when it comes to the Republican dominated legislature, he plans to work to elect candidates that will work with him.

We did reach out to the North Carolina Republican Party on several occasions for a response to this story, but have yet to hear back.