BY CHRIS JOHNSON | Dogged by the continuing economic harm to North Carolina as a result of an anti-LGBT measure he signed into law, Gov. Pat McCrory has narrowly lost his bid for re-election.
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Roy Cooper, who pledged to repeal House Bill 2, has claimed victory in the race over McCrory.
“This has been an extremely hard fought race, but the people of North Carolina have spoken and they have chosen a change in leadership,” Cooper said.
By Wednesday morning, with 100 percent of the voted counted, Cooper emerged the winner by 5,000 votes. McCrory has not formally conceded and the state’s Secretary of State has not yet called the election as a recount is underway.
Signed by McCrory after a single day of consideration by the state legislature, House Bill 2 bars cities from enacting pro-LGBT non-discrimination ordinances, reversing one recently enacted in Charlotte, and prohibits transgender people from using bathrooms in schools and government buildings consistent with their gender identity.
The enactment of House Bill 2 enraged LGBT advocates and business leaders alike. More than 200 businesses signed a letter calling for repeal of the law. Many businesses, including PayPal, went so far as to cancel plans for expansion in the state.
Meanwhile, performers such as Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Cirque du Soleil nixed planned events in the state. The National Basketball Association cancelled the All-Star Game in Charlotte over the law and collegiate sports organizations, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Atlantic Coast Conference, relocated tournaments previously scheduled in North Carolina.
According to Forbes magazine, the enactment of HB2 cost the state an estimated $750 million in business revenue. Although McCrory, a Republican, was initially heavily favored to win re-election in the “red” state early in the year, Cooper became the favorite after the economic harm of HB2 became clear.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, and Chris Sgro, executive director of North Carolina, said in a joint statement McCrory’s apparent defeat “is a beacon of hope for equality.”
“Tonight voters said that HB2 and the politics of hate have no place in the state of North Carolina,” Griffin and Sgro added. “As businesses and jobs fled the state and McCrory’s poll numbers fell, anti-equality groups rallied to his side, spending millions of dollars to bolster his faltering campaign. And we met them head on.”
Cooper has said he’d repeal HB2 and supports LGBT non-discrimination laws in his state. It’s wasn’t immediately clear based on election results whether he’d be able to accomplish either of those objectives.