Roy Cooper is running for governor. More importantly, though, he’s filling a void that Democrats have felt for too long. He’s providing the party faithful a champion, somebody they can rally around.

Over the past few weeks, Cooper has been moving around the state making noises and headlines. But yesterday in a Huffington Post piece, he laid out the case for Democrats while giving people a solid reason to reject Republicans. In a single move, he fired a shot across the bow of the Republican Party and defined the values of the Democratic Party.

Cooper didn’t hold back. His language was combative and his disdain for the actions of Pat McCrory and the Republican legislature was clear. Essentially, Cooper launched his campaign, three years ahead of the next election, by going on the attack. It was a smart move.

Among Democrats, you could almost hear a cheer rise up from across the state. And you could feel a collective sigh of relief. Somebody is stepping up to the plate.

Cooper also helped put to rest questions about his own drive and ambition. For years, conventional wisdom has been that Cooper was risk averse. He passed on numerous Senate races and the 2008 gubernatorial contest. I once wrote that North Carolina could tell election season was coming when the speculation started about Roy Cooper’s next move. After yesterday, nobody is speculating anymore.

Three years is a long slog. Cooper opens himself up to years of criticism and attacks. He will certainly make a misstep or two and find himself in the midst of controversies. Over such a long period, voters could get Cooper fatigue. But it’s a risk worth taking.

Campaigns are roller coasters and political environments are volatile. Between now and 2016, we will read at least one article on Cooper’s ultimate political demise and we will read others about his inevitability. In reality, we won’t know much about the dynamics of the 2016 race for at least a couple of years. But we know Cooper is running.

As of yesterday, he is the new face of the North Carolina Democratic Party. He’s providing Democrats what they desperately need–a leader. He knows what he stands for. He knows what is wrong with our state. And he knows where he wants to lead us. For now, that’s good enough for me.

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