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North Carolina governor spars with state chamber of commerce over confirmation of Black judicial and board seats

By Nicole Chavez, CNN

(CNN) — North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the state’s chamber of commerce have engaged in a heated back-and-forth correspondence over the confirmation of Black judicial and board nominees in the state, according to a series of letters shared with CNN and published online.

Cooper said in a letter sent Friday to the state’s chamber of commerce, that he was concerned “over the habitual failure of the North Carolina General Assembly to confirm Black nominees to various judicial or quasi-judicial roles.”

He asserted that those decisions were often made in consultation with the chamber of commerce, based on what he called “frequent reports from legislators, staff and stakeholders.”

“I strongly urge you to work with your staff and members to consider the Chamber’s impact, intentional or not, in making North Carolina government less representative than the people it serves,” Cooper wrote in his letter.

Gary Salamido, president and CEO of the chamber of commerce, denied the governor’s claims in a letter sent Sunday and posted online.

He described Cooper’s claims over the chamber’s lack of support as “meritless and beneath the dignity” of the governor’s office.

“Your inappropriate assertion that the NC Chamber staff is in any way, intentionally or not, racially motivated is extraordinarily misplaced, highly offensive, and completely without merit. We are inclusive in every respect; our people are of the highest personal and moral character,” Salamido wrote.

CNN has reached out to state Rep. Tim Moore, who is the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, for comment.

Among the claims in Cooper’s letter, the governor said six consecutive Black nominees to the Board of Review were rejected in 2021 and 2022, adding that “in each of these denials it was difficult, if not impossible, to get an explanation from General Assembly members or the Chamber of substantive objections to the nominees.”

Salamido noted in his response to the governor that the nominee to that post who was ultimately confirmed is Black, and said two out of three of the current board members are Black. He also said that each of the failed nominees “faced headwinds in their nominations having nothing to do with race.”

Cooper has at times struggled to pass legislation and confirm his party’s nominees through the state’s Republican-led General Assembly.

In a Monday letter, Cooper said he hopes Salamido and the chamber members acknowledge the “need to do much better” and urged the chamber to support the confirmation of a current nominee to the North Carolina Business Court, who would be the only Black member on the six-seat board.

“It would make all the difference to have you and your members engage in earnestly advocating her confirmation to the General Assembly,” the governor wrote.

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