RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - The political battle between Gov. Pat McCrory and Attorney General Roy Cooper intensified Thursday when McCrory's campaign called for his rival to resign as AG over his position on defending the state over House Bill 2 lawsuits.
Both sides have squabbled with the other, with McCrory saying Cooper is not doing his job as attorney general and Cooper saying McCrory has signed a bill that has no chance in federal court. The U.S. Department of Justice is suing North Carolina over the bill.
After House Bill 2 passed, Cooper, a Democrat, called it "a national embarrassment" and said his office will not defend a law that "provides for broad-based discrimination."
McCrory responded that Cooper "can't select which laws he will defend and which laws are politically expedient to refuse to defend."
Both men are running in the gubernatorial election for North Carolina this fall.
Thursday afternoon, McCrory's campaign called for Cooper to resign in his role as the state's AG.
"First he's not defending North Carolina, then he was, now he says he's not," said Ricky Diaz, McCrory campaign spokesman. "Roy Cooper should resign immediately not only for gross incompetence, but also the serious professional and ethical conflicts of interests he has brought upon himself by siding with the Obama administration instead of defending North Carolina."
The statement comes after Cooper's representatives say he remains steadfast in his refusal to defend the state law requiring transgender students to use restrooms matching the sex on their birth certificates.
Cooper campaign spokesman Ford Porter reiterated Cooper's position Thursday after Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement saying the attorney general told a federal court Friday that he intended to represent the state.
McCrory's statement called Cooper's stance a "quiet reversal" on the law known as HB2 that also blocks workers from filing discrimination claims in state court.
"It's clear that Governor McCrory will go to any length and say anything to avoid taking responsibility for his disastrous discrimination law that is costing North Carolina thousands of jobs and millions of dollars," Ford said. "North Carolinians deserve better."
Samantha Cole of the Attorney General's Office says Cooper wanted to make sure the state had time to file a response to the federal complaint. The McCrory administration says it will represent the state. Cole says Cooper supports that.
Documents show the state has retained William W. Stewart Jr., Tyler Brooks and Frank Gordon, of the law firm Millberg Gordon Stewart in Raleigh and also Bob Stephens, the governor's counsel.
Glen Nager of Jones Day in Washington will represent the University of North Carolina system.