Facing a tight race against a Democratic challenger, Republican state Sen. Tamara Barringer on Tuesday became the first GOP legislator to call for House Bill 2 to be repealed.
Barringer said Tuesday that “if we want to preserve the proud heritage of North Carolina, it is time for our leadership to consider a substantial and immediate repeal of HB2.” She’d voted for HB2 in March. But she said she still doesn’t want boys or men to be able to use women’s locker rooms or bathrooms.
“Whenever legislative bodies rush to judgment on important public policy decisions, there are unintended consequences,” she said in an emailed statement. “With the most recent announcements impacting our state, there are simply too many examples of very sad and unfortunate ramifications and unintended effects of HB2.”
Barringer represents Cary and southwestern Wake County, which was scheduled to host several NCAA sporting events that were canceled Monday in response to HB2.
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Barringer has a well-funded election challenge this year from Wake County school board member Susan Evans, a Democrat. Evans’ campaign spokesman, Dustin Ingalls, said Barringer’s shift on HB2 won’t help her chances of re-election.
“When she voted for HB2 in March, Sen. Barringer knew what she was doing,” Ingalls said. “She knew the legal and economic consequences her constituents would experience. Only now that she’s in danger of losing her seat does she waffle. Her latest change of mind is certainly not a change of heart. It’s a purely political move designed to make voters forget that she is responsible for the loss of jobs and millions of dollars in economic investment in her district.”
No other Republican lawmaker in the state has publicly called for a full repeal of House Bill 2. But many legislators didn’t return calls and emails seeking comment on Tuesday, including other Wake County Republicans up for re-election in November: Sen. Chad Barefoot, Sen. John Alexander, Rep. Marilyn Avila, Rep. Nelson Dollar, Rep. Chris Malone and Rep. Gary Pendleton.
Legislators from more rural areas, however, said they still support the law despite the NCAA’s decision.
Rep. Leo Daughtry, a Smithfield Republican who’s not seeking re-election, said Republicans still support HB2. The chances of a repeal are “very remote,” he said.
Rep. Julia Howard, a Mocksville Republican, said she thought the GOP House members were still firm on it. She noted there was a lot of talk of revising it at the end of the session but that fizzled – legislators only agreed to make a minor tweak to a provision involving employment discrimination lawsuits.
House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger were silent Tuesday on the NCAA decision. But House and Senate Democrats on Tuesday called for a special legislative session to immediately repeal HB2.
Sen. Mike Woodard, a Durham Democrat, said he wanted HB2 repealed as a “preemptive move” to ensure ACC officials don’t move that conference’s baseball championship from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, where it has been held in recent years.
Woodard also said the ripple effects of HB2 are now spilling into smaller communities across the state, such as Greenville, which is losing a women’s golf tournament in 2017.
“This General Assembly and its extremist leadership are playing with people’s livelihoods and the well-being of communities all across our state,” Woodard said.
Bills to repeal HB2 were filed in the House and Senate during this year’s short session, but neither received a committee hearing.
Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Raleigh Democrat, said North Carolina is losing its economic edge as it is being seen nationally and internationally as an “unwelcome place.”
Democratic Rep. Grier Martin of Raleigh said he was under no illusion that he could convince GOP legislative leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory that they are responsible for economic damage caused by HB2.
“The good news is in order to fix the problem, we don’t have to agree who caused the problem,” he said. “We just have to agree on a solution.”