House Bill 2 arguably cost Pat McCrory his governorship in 2016.
In an election decided by 10,000 votes, the controversial “bathroom bill” drove away the NBA All-Star Game, a major PayPal expansion, and several concerts — alienating a segment of unaffiliated voters in the process. It wasn’t the sole reason, but it didn’t help him in 2016.
But does House Bill 2 have the legs to remain a campaign issue in 2020? It’s an open question.
The media and liberal-leaning companies have continued to press the narrative of the bill’s ongoing effects. Netflix recently bought the rights to a show based in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and promptly moved filming to South Carolina, citing House Bill 2.
And another flashpoint is coming up soon. The law that repealed House Bill 2 but prevents cities from passing their own ordinances about bathroom use sunsets in December 2020, as Leah Byers of N.C. Civitas pointed out on Twitter.
House Bill 2 will be a campaign issue in 2020 — just not the way you think.
But the short version is this: Yes, we’re going to continue to hear about the bathroom bill.
Count on presidential candidates to bring this up first. Now that North Carolina’s presidential year primary is held in March, expect numerous visits from Democratic front-runners vying for the nomination. Everybody’s stump speech gets updated for the city they’re in, and count on House Bill 2 to make it into liberal candidates’ messaging.
It likely won’t be as big a deal in the governor’s race.
Gov. Roy Cooper may make references to the repeal bill, which was one of his first priorities after being elected in 2016. He had campaigned on getting the law off the books, and that’s been one of his only accomplishments.
However, this repeal bill angered a big part of the Democratic base. The liberal wing of the party wanted Cooper to go farther, pushing legislation to affirm the LGBTQ community. That hasn’t happened, leaving the House Bill 2 repeal not so much as a feather in his cap as a needle to be threaded.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, the presumptive nominee for governor on the Republican side until somebody else declares for the race, has been one of House Bill 2’s chief supporters. But in a race where he’ll need to get support from unaffiliated voters, count on him to de-emphasize that type of legislation.
Where you might see it the most? In district races for General Assembly. In liberal areas, candidates might run on that December 2020 sunset, pledging to help pass laws affirming LGBTQ people if they can take the majority.
In conservative areas, Republicans may run on keeping sanity in government, keeping the status quo and preventing any social legislation along these lines.
But in general, the way to win on House Bill 2 is to de-emphasize it. Whichever side tries to make it a big issue will likely lose.