Attorney General candidate Buck Newton recently joined other Republicans in stating that Roy Cooper should resign his position. “It’s time for him to resign or do his job and I am happy to volunteer to do his job since he doesn’t want to,” declared Newton. While there are plenty of partisan barbs directed at Cooper from Newton and Gov. Pat McCrory, his non-defense of a reasonable Voter ID law should compel him to leave office.In what has become a pattern for Cooper, the attorney general has refused to do his job by carrying out a good faith defense of the laws of our state. He has passed on defending House Bill 2, the marriage amendment, challenges to Obamacare, and now Voter ID, the last one after vowing to defend it. Cooper’s actions clearly signal that he covets the governor’s job more than his current position, but he still has an unambiguous obligation in state law to carry out the tasks in his current position. This is required by the state constitution and the assigned duties of his job.Some attorneys general argue that they can decline cases by citing their oath to the U.S. Constitution, but all elected officials take the same oath. Courts decide constitutionality. So a failure to defend laws duly passed by the state’s legislative and executive branch erodes the rule of law. “An attorney general who refuses to defend a statute when good faith defenses exist puts himself and his subjective opinion in the place of the court,” declared Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.Despite one’s political leanings, it’s hard to argue that federal overreach is not a serious crisis. In pushing back against the federal government, the majority of states are appealing to the Constitution. The people of North Carolina, especially through the legislature, have exercised responsible pushback to federal expansion. They deserve an attorney general who understands the defined role as it relates to checks and balances within our republic.The Voter ID case clearly shows that Cooper is interested in leveraging partisan policy to become governor at the expense of the rule of law. The measure has broad public support and affirmation by a district court before being struck down by what many describe as partisan judges. Recently in 2013, a Supreme Court ruling is what granted states like North Carolina expanded power on setting voter parameters. In this instance, an attorney general who abandons the clear and compelling duty to defend the state’s interests has in effect abdicated his position.It would not be shameful for Cooper to resign so he can continue his focus on the job he desires. To continue to draw a salary from taxpayers as attorney general while not completing his work is certainly not unprecedented. However, the practice of contributing to the erosion of the rule of law and undercutting democratic principles puts the state at greater risk of being a pawn to federal power.In criticizing Cooper, Newton plainly said, “It’s a normal expectation for the people of North Carolina to show up and do their jobs each and every day,” and asked, “Why should Roy Cooper be held to a different standard than the people of North Carolina?” That is a basic and fair question to ask of Cooper. Voters should look for candidates who are willing to place the interest of North Carolinians above their own self-interest. By resigning, Cooper would signal that he is willing to do that. While being late in doing the right and ethical thing is not ideal, it’s better than never.
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