Donald Trump’s victories in swing states on his way to the presidency Tuesday night picked up a lot of candidates on the wave. A new state treasurer and insurance commissioner likely were helped by the man at the top of the national ticket.
In normal circumstances, a fellow Trump Republican, Gov. Pat McCrory, could have expected to ride to the shore with Trump. McCrory was, after all, the incumbent in the race, and has had a lot of television time with leading the state through natural disasters, the latest being Hurricane Matthew. It should be said his leadership in those cases was entirely credible.
But after the returns were in, McCrory trailed Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democratic nominee, by almost 5,000 votes. The governor’s people were quick to note there were provisional and absentee ballots still out there, and the state will conduct a recount if so desired by a statewide candidate within a 10,000-vote margin. That could make a difference, but Cooper has confidently declared victory — and Democrats were woefully in need of a win on election night.
McCrory might get a break, but the real curiosity here is that a sitting governor whose party nominee won the state in the presidential election didn’t bring the governor along for his own victory parade.
One quick answer, of course, is HB2. That’s the infamous “bathroom bill” the governor signed after it was introduced and passed in one day by the General Assembly. The law overturned a Charlotte City Council ordinance allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify, something they have no doubt been doing for decades. The ordinance was a simple anti-discrimination measure.
Reaction was swift, and devastating: the loss of millions of dollars in concerts, convention and conference business, withdrawal of companies who were planning expansions, loss of the NBA All-Star Game and other NCAA and ACC sports events.
Cooper, four-term attorney general, made it clear he thinks HB2 is a disaster. He’s also criticized the anti-public school stance of the GOP on Jones Street, and has good experience as a leader in the state Senate.
Should Cooper prevail, of course, he’ll be up against a veto-proof Republican majority in the House and in the Senate, and he repeatedly will clash with lawmakers over public education, environmental policy and business regulation and unfair taxation. The difference is, in Cooper the leaders of the legislature would be up against a formidable foe instead of a governor who is is willing to go along with legislation that pushes the state backward.