Roy Cooper released a video yesterday that some are heralding as the first ad of the 2016 race for governor in North Carolina. However, it’s not as much about 2016 as it is about 2014. The spot starts out pounding on the GOP for its embarrassing record during the 2013 legislative session and ends with Cooper asking for help in reclaiming the state’s reputation as a leader in “economic growth, educational excellence and personal freedom.”

Cooper’s message is right on the money. He lays out the problems with the Republican agenda and exposes their cultural insensitivity in a state that is becoming more, not less, diverse. He then reminds us that, not long ago, North Carolina was seen as a leader that attracted businesses and workers because of our progressive policies. And he uses the language of inclusion: “Join with me” and “we’ve lived through these times before” and “we need to come together.” They are powerful words.

Many of my friends on the left are skeptical of Cooper. They ask where he’s been in the past and point to him as the same brand of conservative or establishment Democrat that lost the state in the first place. There will be plenty of time for those fights in 2016 and beyond but first we’ve got to get there.

What’s relevant is where Cooper is today. He’s publicly taking on the GOP now, not in 2015 or 2016. That’s a brave move for a sitting Attorney General and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Cooper is creating a big enough platform to put the GOP on the defensive in a year when he’s not even on the ballot. No other elected officials are exposing themselves like Cooper is. He has to fight through two sessions of the general assembly–this year’s short session and next year’s long one–before the primary of 2016. The legislature will almost certainly make him and his office pay a price. I’m sure he knows the risks.

I’m a guy who has long been skeptical of establishment politicians, both Democrat and Republican, but now is not the time to quibble. Cooper has stepped up when he could have easily sat back and waited until after the mid-term elections. Instead, he’s offering leadership, cover and ammunition to the candidates and people fighting to take back the legislature.

Sure Cooper is self-interested. He’s building good will, name recognition and support. Who cares? This is politics and I say welcome to the fray.

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >

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