Former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2 a day after his political strategist shared a poll showing it would be popular with voters, newly released emails show.
Strategist Chris LaCivita shared the poll with the governor on March 22.
“Wow,” the governor responded after seeing the poll results.
The next day the General Assembly passed HB2, the bill that nullified a Charlotte ordinance extending anti-discrimination protections to the LGBT community. The ordinance also would have let transgender persons use the bathroom or locker room of the gender with which they identify. McCrory signed it later that day.
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The newly released emails, which came through a public records request from the Observer, show that the governor was aware of the political dimensions of the bill. The Observer has previously received thousands of pages of other HB2-related emails from the governor’s office following a lawsuit filed by the paper in October.
McCrory declined comment Thursday.
The political fight over HB2 is still raging. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who defeated McCrory in November, this week offered a compromise that would repeal the law while strengthening penalties for crimes committed in bathrooms or changing facilities.
Republican legislators dismissed the offer. They blame Cooper for helping defeat a repeal effort in December, one that Democrats saw as having unacceptable strings attached.
The state faces what’s believed to be an imminent deadline for repealing the law or losing NCAA championship events for the next six years.
The emails released Thursday are the latest involving the former governor and HB2.
The Observer has previously reported that McCrory’s general counsel, Bob Stephens, told a former legal colleague on March 26 that the governor had battled the legislature over the bill.
“You have no idea how hard the Governor worked to limit it,” Stephens said in the email. “He told the legislature that it went too far. We lobbied against it and even drafted our own version of the bill but it was not accepted.”
The day before the law was passed and signed, LaCivita, the campaign strategist, shared a poll of voters in the Charlotte area. They seemed to show strong support for the bill.
Seventy-percent of respondents opposed what the survey called the “Charlotte Bathroom ordinance.” And 61 percent agreed with overturning the Charlotte ordinance “as a matter of protecting the privacy and safety of women and children.”
“These emails show us clearly that McCrory’s decision to sign House Bill 2 was always driven by politics, not by ‘common sense’ or concerns over public safety,” said N.C. Democratic Party spokesman Mike Gwin.
The emails released Thursday also contained one from McCrory to Ed Driggs and Kenny Smith, the only Republicans on the Charlotte City Council. As previously reported, the governor warned of a legislative response if Charlotte passed the ordinance.
“I encourage you to convince your colleagues to focus on issues most important to our citizens and this proposed change is not one of them. In fact, the city of Charlotte is causing more problems by trying to solve a problem that does not exist,” McCrory wrote.
The council passed the anti-discrimination ordinance the next day.
Staff writer Rick Rothacker contributed.