10/22/04 — Knott seeks to replace Roy Cooper

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Knott seeks to replace Roy Cooper

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on October 22, 2004 2:00 PM

Several politicians have used the North Carolina attorney general's office as a step to another office. Joe Knott says that needs to change.

"I think the office needs an attorney, not a politician," Knott said during a campaign stop Thursday in Goldsboro.

Joe Knott


Knott, a Raleigh Republican, is offering himself as an alternative to the current attorney general, Roy Cooper. Cooper is a lawyer but one that is preoccupied with seeking higher office, Knott said.

"It seems very clear that he will be running for governor," Knott said. If he does seek higher office, he'd be following the example of past attorneys general such as Robert Morgan, Rufus Edmisten and Gov. Mike Easley.

Political ambition has to hinder the attorney general's ability to do his job, Knott continued. He would not feel free to offend powers-that-be in his own party, including the governor, as he jockeys for future support.

"I'm not saying Roy Cooper is a bad person, but he's a politician first and a lawyer second," he said.

In contrast, Knott has not run for office before and has no interest in any other office other than attorney general, he said. He is uncertain if he'd even run for a second term if elected.

If elected, Knott would work to eliminate the backlog in the state's DNA lab, he said. "The people of North Carolina would really like to see that DNA analyzed."

He would make the office more of a watchdog over charitable foundations that receive state funding, he said. More than 2,000 groups receive a total of $700 million a year with little oversight, he added. "We need to turn the lights on."

He would also seek to make the attorney's office more active in mediating political disputes, he said. For example, he would have tried to intercede in the Legislature's partisan bickering over redistricting, he said.

He noted that a Republican has not been elected attorney general in the last century. "One hundred years is long enough," he said.

Knott was born July 25, 1951 in Raleigh. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1974 and then earned his law degree at UNC in 1980. He worked for four years as an assistant U.S. attorney, including two years as a criminal prosecutor.

Since 1985, he has been a partner at Knott, Clark, Berger & Whitehurst, a Raleigh law firm.