The long-awaited formal declaration came in his native Nash County.
READ MORE: WHO IS ROY COOPER?
Cooper has been saying for two years he was preparing for a bid for governor. He's been outspoken in criticizing policies of the Republican legislature and GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, who is seeking re-election. During the same period, his office has represented the state defending many of the laws Republicans passed but are now being challenged.
"The crowd that is leading in Raleigh is leading us down the wrong path," Cooper said Monday.
In his announcement speech, Cooper called for new priorities in North Carolina like higher wages and jobs.
"North Carolina is better than this," he said. "It's time for our state to work for everyone"
Cooper said he would "focus on helping incomes rise, putting more money back in the pockets of middle class families, and helping small businesses grow. When our economy grows, your paycheck should grow. It is time for everyone, not just a select few, to experience the rewards of an improving economy."
Cooper's opponent in the Democratic primary, Ken Spaulding, offered a firm rebuke to Cooper's decision to run. Monday morning, Spaulding said in a statement that "this will be a meaningful primary."
"The primary voters will have a choice between Roy Cooper, the status quo and the establishment's hand picked career politician who through his office has sided in court with the Republicans against the voting rights of all North Carolinians, and a candidate in me, who will never take the voters for granted and who is willing to work hard for the people's respect and support," Spaulding went on to say in a statement.
The North Carolina Republican party was also quick to criticize, putting out a statement Monday that Cooper would take the state "back to the future."