Republican Gov. Pat McCrory Tuesday accused his opponent as well as other Democrats of helping scuttle a deal that might have resulted in the repeal of the law known as House Bill 2.
But his rival, Attorney General Roy Cooper, said neither he nor his staff lobbied Charlotte City Council members against dropping the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, a move that could have paved the way for the General Assembly to repeal HB2.
“(In) the last four days, I’ve tried to work with leadership both in the House and Senate and with your local leadership to find a solution,” McCrory said of efforts to repeal the law that he signed in March. “There are people that don’t want that solution including my opponent, including … some of the leadership here in Charlotte.”
Speaking across town, Cooper said McCrory should accept responsibility for the law that has led the Atlantic Coast Conference and the NCAA to take a series of championships from the state and cost millions in lost jobs and canceled performances.
Cooper said McCrory has blamed “me, the president, the city of Charlotte, the liberal media and Bruce Springsteen” for HB2.
“HB2 is solely responsible for the economic damage (to N.C.),” he said. “We have to put pressure on the governor and legislative leadership to call a special session now to repeal HB2.”
The dueling remarks underscore the fact that HB2 has become a defining issue in the governor’s race.
The law rescinded the Charlotte ordinance that extended nondiscrimination protections to the LGBT community and prevented other local governments from adopting similar ordinances. HB2 requires people in government facilities to use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.
Hope for deal fades
After the ACC and NCAA announced their decisions, state and local businesses ramped up pressure on officials. The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association tried to broker a deal. So did the Charlotte Chamber. And so did Raleigh businessman Art Pope, a Republican financier who urged repeal of both the state law and the city ordinance and the formation of a blue ribbon commission to study the issue.
But Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said Monday the council would not reconsider the ordinance, at least for now. Pope said Tuesday that appears to end any prospects for a quick repeal of HB2.
“In my opinion, when the Charlotte City Council refused to rescind the ordinance, that pretty well ended the immediate chances of the legislature doing anything on HB2 between now and the 2017 legislative session,” he said.
Senate GOP Leader Phil Berger had said in a statement that the city’s refusal to act “makes me question if (Roberts) and Roy Cooper are really serious about trying to find a solution, or if they would rather prolong this debate for political reasons – regardless of the impact on Charlotte and our state’s business community.”
Berger said if City Council doesn’t trust the legislature, it could rescind its ordinance only on the condition that the legislature repeal HB2.
A ‘national issue’
The state Republican Party blamed the Cooper campaign and Democratic legislators for thwarting the possible compromise between the city and state.
“I am extremely disappointed,” state GOP Chair Robin Hayes told a news conference. “We had a solution at hand that would have cured the economic problems that we have been suffering because of the political conflicts created by Jennifer Roberts.”
For his part, Cooper was asked by a member of the audience what he would do about the hypothetical situation of a transgender boy wanting to shower and change with the questioner’s girls’ soccer team.
Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance did not affect schools. The Obama administration, however, has ordered school districts nationwide to accommodate transgender students, which can include giving them locker room access – with privacy accommodations – to the gender with which they identify.
Cooper did not address the hypothetical situation of the transgender boy on a girls’ soccer team. He said HB2 has caused significant economic damage and called for it to be repealed.
McCrory said the North Carolina law “is now a national issue.”
“And the issue is this,” he said. “How do we define gender in the future? Is it based on your anatomy or is it based on what you think you are or how you like to express yourself? It’s a very complex debate … and that debate deserves to be out of cheap politics and boycotts and economic threats.”
Rachel Chason of the (Raleigh) News & Observer contributed.