The 2020 North Carolina gubernatorial race pits incumbent Democrat Roy Cooper against challenging Republican Dan Forest, the state’s current lieutenant governor. Cooper and Forest have a frosty relationship given major disagreements over issues like the state’s COVID-19 response and reopening schools. Here’s a quick cheat sheet of their stances on some issues most important to college-aged students:
Cooper: Spearheaded the state’s COVID-19 response, issued a mask-wearing mandate in June and enforced a stay-at-home order beginning in March and ending in late May. Cooper consistently updated his constituents with information in regular press conferences with Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen.
Forest: Sparred with multiple aspects of Cooper’s COVID-19 response strategies. If elected governor, Forest said he will repeal any mask mandate, saying “I don’t think there’s any science that backs [mask mandates] up.” In mid-August, Forest dropped a lawsuit against Cooper over Cooper’s authority to create COVID-19 executive orders.
He also wanted to fully reopen schools. A member of the state Board of Education, Forest attempted to pass a motion in October that would fully reopen all K-12 schools, but the board ruled it out of order.
House Bill 2/Sexual Assault
Cooper: As attorney general, Cooper refused to defend the state in lawsuits over House Bill 2 (HB2), calling it unconstitutional. The bill, which was seen as discriminatory towards transgender individuals, required individuals to use the bathroom that coincides with the sex listed on their birth certificate. The law was repealed when Cooper became governor.
Cooper also signed Senate Bill 199, which gave North Carolinians the right to revoke consent after consenting to sex, and it instituted a mandatory reporting requirement for people 18 or older who have knowledge of sexual assaults or other abuses of juveniles. The bill also expanded the statute of limitations for misdemeanor child abuse charges.
Cooper signed the Survivor Act into law in September of 2019 which provided $6 million dollars to test sexual assault kits. The act also requires law enforcement to submit a kit for testing within 45 days of its collection.
Forest: Opposed the repeal of HB2, saying “We are yielding the moral high ground” by giving into pressure to repeal the law.
According to his campaign website, Forest wants to “clear the rape kit backlog.”
Cooper: His Climate Change Interagency Council created four plans in 2019, all relating to the environment. The Clean Energy plan is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and finding ways to “accelerate clean energy innovation.” The Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) plan set a goal of 80,000 registered zero emission vehicles in the state by 2025. The Motor Fleet ZEV plan found that over 500 state vehicles could be made efficient, which could save North Carolina $3.8 million.
Forest: Is the chair of the North Carolina Energy Policy Council. Forest wants to encourage innovation to lower the costs of natural gas recovery, as well as alternative and renewable energies.
Cooper: Helped write and pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which helps families that cannot afford health care and do not qualify for Medicaid receive insurance for their children. Cooper is also for expanding Medicaid, and enacted an Opioid Action Plan to combat addiction. Cooper was against a small business health act that passed in 2019, due to concerns about some people not getting the amount of coverage they should for preexisting conditions.
Forest: Supported the Small Business Health Care Act, and he is against the Affordable Care Act. Forest backed the Trump health care plan, which he says expands affordable insurance options, reduces the cost of prescription drugs and protects patients with preexisting conditions.
Cooper: Created a Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, which recommended law enforcement agencies have policies emphasizing the duty of officers to intervene and report cases of excessive force. The task force also recommended neck holds be prohibited, and that the North Carolina Supreme Court assess its levying of fines and fees on defendants. Another major recommendation was racial equity training for court personnel in the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Forest: Does not believe “that the vast majority of Americans think we have a systemic racism problem.” During North Carolina protests and in the wake of the death of George Floyd, Forest released a statement aimed at rioters, saying in part, “Our state does not support police brutality or support rioting, looting and burning of property of those who had nothing to do with that brutality… Both are wrong.”