RALEIGH, N.C. — At the climax of an election season unprecedented in history for its brutality and tragedy, there is one glimmer of light: Gov. Pat McCrory lost his bid for re-election. Perhaps the biggest issue at odds between McCrory and opponent Roy Cooper was House Bill 2 (HB2). The controversial legislation, which discriminates against transgender citizens and prevents state-level nondiscrimination protections based on sexuality and gender, was brought up time and again in gubernatorial debates and rallies. When McCrory lost the race by a mere 5,000 votes, he may look to his staunch defense of HB2 as the issue that cost him his seat as North Carolina’s governor.
North Carolina as a whole went red in the presidential election — a fact that disappoints many progressive residents of the state — but on the local level, a number of contested seats went to Democrats. These include attorney general and Supreme Court seats, both of which were contested by Republicans who had defended HB2. Dr. Michael Bitzer, Catawba College professor of political science and history, made this comment: “The split-ticket voter is apparently alive and well here in North Carolina,” he told NC Policy Watch.
These voters unseated McCrory despite electing the presidential candidate that endorsed the governor. McCrory received nearly 63,000 fewer votes than President-elect Donald Trump.
“The combination of the I-77 toll roads in the Northern part of [Mecklenburg] county, a very Republican part of the county, combined with HB2 in the heart of deep blue Charlotte were the motivating factors to move Mecklenburg County so much against Pat McCrory,” Bitzer explains.
HB2 has been a hot-button issue in North Carolina to the extent that it’s become a nationwide and even international scandal. Countless businesses and organizations have canceled expansions and events in North Carolina, with the estimated cost to the state’s economy topping $698 million. Despite these estimates, the McCrory administration insists that HB2 has not had any impact on the economy.
The margin between McCrory and opponent Roy Cooper came to less than 5,000 votes, and the current governor refuses to concede the election until all absentee and provisional ballots have been counted. Sources report that the final call will be made by Nov. 18. However, election officials say that a major shift in percentages is unlikely.
“That’s a lot of votes to find in a statewide race,” reports Kristin Mavromatis, Public Information Manager for Mecklenburg County Board of Elections. “We’ve all been surprised by results before, but statistically speaking, if the dynamic changes that much, somebody did something wrong.”
Meanwhile, the very morning after the election, LGBTQ activists gathered in protest in front of the governor’s mansion in Raleigh. Toting a rainbow sign that read “The People’s Agenda: Pro-Worker, Pro-Black, Pro-Trans, Pro-Queer, Pro-Immigrant,” protestors demanded the repeal of discriminatory legislation.
The demands included repeal of HB2, but were not limited to it. Rally attendees also cited House Bill 972 — which prevents the public from viewing police body camera footage — and House Bill 318, which bans “sanctuary cities” for the safety of immigrant refugees.
A man came dressed in a McCrory costume with a giant papier-mache head. “Pack your bags, Pat,” read the McCrory surrogate’s sign.