September 9, 2016 11:01 AM
North Carolina voters are looking to choose between two men for governor: reelecting their Republican Governor Pat McCrory or electing Democrat Attorney General Roy Cooper. Generally, incumbents have an easier time with being reelected. Unfortunately for Governor McCrory, his reelection bid is a bit murky largely due to HB 2 (also known as “The Bathroom Bill”) that he signed into law earlier this year. The state and the governor have both gotten flack from folks around the nation. It’s also taken a hit to their pocketbook with businesses threatening to withdraw from North Carolina.
Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia Center for Politics has peered into his crystal ball to predict how the few states who hold gubernatorial elections this year will go. His prediction for McCrory isn’t all too cheery:
McCrory has almost certainly been damaged by his decision to sign the controversial HB2 into law, which overturned anti-discrimination protections for LGBT rights, most notably a Charlotte ordinance addressing transgender access to public restrooms. Tellingly, Monmouth University’s recent survey pegged approval/disapproval for HB2 at a woeful 36%/55%. Of those who approve of the law, 74% say they’re backing McCrory, while Cooper gets the support of 72% of those who disapprove of HB2. Unusually for a challenger, Cooper has also outraised the incumbent McCrory, holding a $12.7 million to $8.7 million edge as of the end of the second quarter (June 30). In light of these developments in North Carolina, we’re shifting its rating from Toss-up to Leans Democratic.
Charlie wrote in his column this week on how policy for the 2017 legislative session is starting to be crafted now through study committees that will be meeting over the next few months. It’s also in a year before a gubernatorial election year, so a lot of political posturing will be made by legislators (and special interest groups jockeying for favor) who are looking to move up the political ladder.
RFRA was the red meat issue this past legislative session and full of controversy. Governor Nathan Deal vetoed the bill that was produced by the General Assembly and received a big backlash from social conservatives. In fact, the third congressional district Republican convention were so upset with Governor Deal that they passed a resolution censuring him over the matter. State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), who is a ardent supporter of RFRA, criticized the resolution and calling it not constructive to advancing the policy.
You can expect RFRA to be back in the 2017 session of the General Assembly and, with the controversy surrounding where folks are trying to figure out where they can go pee in public, a similar “Bathroom Bill” will be dropped in both chambers. Remember, we’re entering a gubernatorial and state-level office election, so don’t be surprised when red meat bill start springing up next year.
Sabato’s prediction of Governor McCrory’s possible political demise in November should serve as a warning to Republicans who are listening to the siren song of a heavy social conservative policy agenda entering into 2018. Georgia and North Carolina are similar in terms of population. Democrats have been making in-roads in North Carolina and are looking to do the same in Georgia. This year’s presidential election has put Georgia’s reliability as a red state in jeopardy, and you know that Democrats will continue to chip away until they start winning statewide contests again.
2018 could test Georgia Republicans, and it gives us to highlight important issues and form policy agendas to advance our state. Governor Deal has been leading the conversation in criminal justice reform and education reform. It would be great if those Republicans vying to be his successor continue to build upon this work. The General Assembly has formed a number of study committees to study challenges that face our state like transportation, access to healthcare, access to reliable broadband Internet, and others. It’s an opportunity our Republican Party has to continue to lead Georgia into the future and show that we are the Party of ideas rather than being knee-jerk reactionaries to a changing society.