NC Republicans fear ‘bathroom law’ will dent ‘small government’ brand — and cost them the election
Samantha Bee isn’t the only one feeling electoral regret after North Carolina’s conservative Republican legislature passed a buffet of bills that earned them a lot of unfavorable attention. Now the state’s own voters are having second thoughts on those people that are costing their state’s economy with the transphobic “bathroom bill” HB2.
GOP lawmakers are frustrated as North Carolina continues to lose the PR battle over HB2, Politico reports. “The reality is that HB2 hurts,” said state Rep. Charles Jeter, the GOP leader tasked with keeping the majority in 2016. “It doesn’t matter that I’m opposed to it or that I’ve called for its repeal … because the mailer to voters [in my race] is going to say that I was a part of the Republican majority that passed the most discriminatory bill in the state. HB2 is going to have reverberations for our party no matter what we do, in November and probably beyond that.”
The party of “small government” has quickly become the annoying hall monitor who decides who gets to use a bathroom and who doesn’t. A Republican strategist thinks that the legislative majority of Republicans may have pushed the state too far, and now voters want the pendulum to swing back to normal.
“The question that will be answered in November is whether the Republicans in the General Assembly overplayed their hand, after feeling empowered by impressive gains in the last three election cycles,” the strategist said. “Republicans could lose their veto-proof majority in one or both [legislative] chambers, with a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the governor’s race.”
Small businesses in the state are already reporting a backlash, according to LGBTQ Nation. The travel and tourism industry in North Carolina brings in $21 million each year, but already the Raleigh area has reported an estimated $3.5 million in losses because four conferences canceled or scaled back their events after HB2 was passed.
Jamie Gilpin’s Asheville area bicycle tours saw a one-third drop in sales once the law was on the books. When he tried to do advertising on Facebook, he was attacked by people calling for a boycott of the state. “We started getting comments like, ‘we’ll never come your way.’ It was kind of a shock to me,” Gilpin says.
A poll sponsored by WRAL-TV in Raleigh found that 50 percent of likely voters oppose the new law and only 38 percent support it. Similarly, 61 percent of voters think the law has hurt the state’s image and ability to attract business nationally.
Republican governor Pat McCrory, who refused to block the bill and now fights to uphold it, is in a reelection battle of his own. His opponent is Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, who refuses to fight to protect the legislation. McCrory’s net approval rating is now at -4 percent where Cooper has gained 28 percent. Much of that support is coming from white conservative voters too. He already has a lock on African-American voters who are supporting him by an 8 to 1 margin.
It might take more work from Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the Justice Department to take down HB2, but in the process, it’s likely to take a lot of politicians down with it.