Cooper said it is still too early to make a formal announcement about running for governor, but he told ABC11 he is making plans for a bid without actually being in the race.
"I think you have to start planning. It's a big job. There's a lot to do. I'm very concerned about where our state is headed. I'm concerned we're not paying enough attention to public education, economic development, so I am certainly making plans," Cooper said.
The state's chief law enforcement officer isn't talking specifics, but Cooper said he wants to influence public policy, taking aim at what he calls bad legislation.
"I have been stunned as to what has happened to our state in the last 10 months. This is not the North Carolina that any of us recognize, and I want to be a part of changing the direction we're going," Cooper said.
He is asking the legislature to reconsider issues like Medicaid expansion and cuts to public education.
"I believe this legislature and this governor don't respect the teaching profession," Cooper said.
He said he'll continue to be vocal about public education cuts no matter what leadership capacity he serves. He told ABC11 he wants lawmakers to consider raising teacher salaries when the legislature reconvenes in May.
Cooper raised eyebrows earlier this month when he revealed his support for same-sex marriage.
"I personally support marriage equality," he said.
Critics have accused him of being unfit for office after vocalizing his opinions and criticizing laws he is supposed to defend. Cooper said his office has successfully defended legislation that he personally disagrees with, and he vows to continue on that path.
"My duty is to defend the state when it gets sued and to defend the constitutionality of laws that have been passed by the general assembly, and I'm going to do that. But I'm also going to continue to speak out on public policy," Cooper said.