Lt. Gov. Dan Forest's threat to sue Roy Cooper over coronavirus restrictions is a ploy for attention, the Observer editorial board writes. (AP Photo/Gary Robertson) North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest's threat to sue Roy Cooper over coronavirus restrictions is a ploy for attention, the Observer editorial board writes. (AP Photo/Gary Robertson)

N&O, Charlotte Observer editorial board says Forest would have reopened the state too soon if he were governor today.   

A new editorial from North Carolina’s Observer papers says Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s threat to sue Gov. Roy Cooper over Cooper’s social distancing orders is just a bid for attention.

“Dan Forest wasn’t really thinking of anyone else this week,” the papers’ editorial board wrote. “He was trying once again to say anything to bring himself and his foundering campaign some attention. It’s a wonder that hasn’t worked so far.”

Forest announced his intentions to file a lawsuit in a Facebook post late last week, after Cooper announced a mandatory mask order and backed off on plans to ease social distancing restrictions further.

The lieutenant governor claims that Cooper violated the state’s Constitution. In a June 25 letter to Cooper, Forest specifically claimed that the governor violated the state’s Emergency Management Act. 

“The Emergency Management Act requires that you seek and receive concurrence from the Council of State prior to exercising the most expansive statewide emergency powers of the governor,” Forest wrote.

Forest, a Republican, is running against Democrat Cooper in the November gubernatorial election. His planned lawsuit will target a series of executive orders Cooper has issued since March, which are designed to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The Council of State consists of ten elected officials including Cooper, Forest, Attorney General Josh Stein, State Treasurer Dale Folwell, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey and State Auditor Beth Wood. 

Republicans hold a 6-4 majority on the council which has opposed Cooper’s orders in the past, WRAL-TV noted

RELATED: Some NC Sheriffs Are Refusing To Enforce Gov. Cooper’s Mask Order

The Observer editorial noted that none of Forest’s colleagues on the Council of State have rallied to his claims, which they likened to a “a 60-yard Hail Mary with a 30-yard arm.”

From the editorial: 

“If anything, Forest is doing everyone a favor with his political stunt. He’s reminding North Carolina that he was against the intent of Cooper’s initial COVID orders, which he said back in March “will devastate our economy.” If Forest were governor during this pandemic, we likely would have reopened too quickly – or perhaps not closed enough at the start. We could be Arizona right now, facing an alarming surge of cases after a too-quick reopening. We could be Texas, where the governor was forced to close bars and restrict restaurant capacity Friday.

That’s not just a scary hypothetical. If Forest wins in November, he’ll be managing the inevitable second wave of the epidemic.”

Forest’s letter charges that while Cooper sought Council support before issuing a March 17 order that limited restaurants to carry-out and delivery service, the governor hasn’t sought further input from the body before issuing subsequent orders. 

Cooper made his announcement last Wednesday, the same day NC reported its second-highest daily total of new coronavirus cases. As of Sunday, the state tallies stand at 62,142 confirmed cases, 890 hospitalizations, and 1,322 deaths. 

Cooper has said that state law gives him the power to act during an emergency without consulting the Council of State. 

“There’s no room for politics during a pandemic,” Cooper spokesperson Dory MacMillan said about Forest’s threat. “The governor will continue to be guided by science and the law as he works every day with public health experts to keep North Carolinians safe.” 

Because Attorney General Stein, a Democrat, helped craft the orders Forest is opposing, the lieutenant governor has requested the use of his own attorney. Cooper is required by law to approve Forest’s use of independent legal counsel before the suit can be filed.

Forest’s announcement came as several sheriffs in NC declared they would not enforce Cooper’s mask order, also claiming it is unconstitutional. 

As in other states, North Carolina’s judicial branch is charged with determining whether a statute or executive order violates the Constitution.