The Trump train that carried Republicans to victory all over the South may have left one car behind in North Carolina — Gov. Pat McCrory, who trailed by a few thousand votes Thursday in a still too-close-to-call race that played out amid anger over the state’s transgender bathroom law.
The law limiting LGBT rights appeared to have a substantial role in the Election Day contest between McCrory, who signed the measure and vigorously defended it against boycotts and other protests, and Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, who called for its repeal.
McCrory, who in 2012 won the governorship by 500,000 votes in a blowout the same year President Barack Obama was re-elected, was losing by 5,000 votes out of nearly 4.7 million cast. In 2012, McCrory received 170,000 more votes than Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. This time, he trailed Donald Trump by 63,000 votes.
McCrory could still win. There are tens of thousands of provisional ballots that have to be examined to determine whether they are valid and can be added to the vote tallies. Counties don’t have to submit their final results until Nov. 18.
North Carolina debated, passed and signed the bathroom bill in a one-day special session in March. The measure, known as House Bill 2, requires transgender people to use restrooms in schools and government buildings that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate.
The law also leaves out gay and transgender people from state anti-discrimination protection. And it disallows local measures that offer protection.
The national backlash began immediately. Charlotte lost the NBA All-Star game. The NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference pulled basketball tournament games out of North Carolina, a punishing blow in a state where college basketball is practically religion. Bruce Springsteen and other stars canceled concerts. Businesses like PayPal stopped expansions or moves.
Even some of McCrory’s supporters were bothered — not necessarily by the law itself but by the costly and embarrassing spectacle that resulted.
“The bathroom thing was ludicrous. It took away from a lot of the good he did, like bring jobs back,” said 54-year-old John Muter, who still voted for McCrory.
House Bill 2 struck down an LGBT rights ordinance in Charlotte, where McCrory was mayor for 14 years. Mecklenburg County, which is made up mostly of Charlotte, gave its hometown son a 3,100-vote victory in 2012. On Tuesday, McCrory lost Mecklenburg County by 136,000 votes.
William Brinkley was one of those Charlotte voters who flipped their votes, upset that McCrory and other Republicans poked their nose into local business.
“I’m totally against the entire scheming that they want to pass something without the populace’s consent. Trying to do stuff in a closed session is not the way to get stuff done in this state,” the 27-year-old business consultant said recently. “I 100 percent think it’s an invasion of freedom.”