RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — As Gov. Roy Cooper enters his last two years in office, he says there are a variety of things he wants to accomplish next year while he contemplates what’s next for him after his time as governor is over.
“So, one thing, I’ve got two years and 16 days that I can get a lot done for the people of North Carolina,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “Public service is appealing to me. I will see what doors may open for me afterwards.”
The new legislative session will begin in January with Republicans having gained a few seats in the General Assembly but falling one seat short in the state House of Representatives of having a veto-proof supermajority. The GOP did win the necessary 30 seats in the state Senate to regain a supermajority.
“We need to get Medicaid expanded, and hopefully they’ll do that. We need to make more investments in our schools following the court order. And, we need to stop bad things that can be business-killing culture war laws,” Cooper said.
Cooper pointed out he’s worked with Republican leaders to attract new businesses to the state, recently announcing some of the largest economic development deals in state history with Vietnamese electric-vehicle maker VinFast and chip-maker Wolfspeed, both of which are building new facilities in Chatham County.
“I hear Republican leadership talking about how things are going really well in our state, and that’s because we have a real balance,” Cooper said. “There’s a reason why we’re the number one state in the country for business, is because we’ve had that balance. We’ve been able to work together on economic development. We’ve been able to work together on economic development. We’ve been able to stop these culture war laws that tend to turn off businesses.”
One of the top issues Republicans plan to address next year is abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. While legislative leaders have not unveiled a specific proposal, Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said Tuesday he thinks there’s “a pathway” to pass a bill, and Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said he believes some Democrats in the House would be willing to vote with the Republicans.
“Well, already, North Carolina has a very tight abortion law because it’s been reinstated. There’s a 20-week ban,” Cooper said. “I don’t think we need any changes to make it any more restrictive or to make criminals out of doctors or women.”
Since Democrats broke the supermajority Republicans held in the 2018 election, all of Cooper’s vetoes of various legislation have been sustained. However, in the next session the margin is razor thin.
“I believe that we can sustain our vetoes,” Cooper said.
Expanding Medicaid coverage remains a key priority for the governor who has pushed for North Carolina to take that step even before he took office. While Republicans resisted that move for years, leaders in the General Assembly changed their position this year and now are willing to approve that. However, they have not reached an agreement on a broad set of healthcare reforms to go along with Medicaid expansion.
“They have assured me that they are for Medicaid expansion. The problem is with the clock ticking, that people die because they don’t have health insurance,” Cooper said. “Every month that goes by we’re giving up more than half a billion dollars. We’re costing people’s lives. We’re so close.”
Cooper is also considering what his next steps will be after decades in public office. He can’t run for a third term as governor in 2024 but said he hasn’t decided what he’ll do when his current term is over.
When asked if he ever wants to run for elected office again, he said, “I don’t know that that’s in my future. I’m still young. And, I’m still excited about the things I can do for the people of this state.”
His name has been floated as a possible presidential candidate, especially given his ability to win election in a state former President Donald Trump also won twice. Cooper has said he expects President Joe Biden will run for re-election in 2024 and he will support him.
As far as a possible presidential run after that, Cooper said, “I don’t want to cause President Biden any problems because I think particularly looking at the comparison between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, we’ve gotten significant transformative laws put into place that’s going to change people’s lives not only in North Carolina but across the country. I think he deserves to be re-elected, and we’re gonna try to win North Carolina for him.”