After their debate Tuesday night, both Governor McCrory and Attorney General Roy Cooper answered questions from the media and sought to expand upon their arguments against one another. The gubernatorial election this fall promises be voters’ clearest indication of which path the state should follow for the next four years—including the acceptance or rejection of HB 2.
Governor McCrory took questions first and framed HB 2 as “common sense. It’s neither conservative or liberal. It’s basic common sense. … Who would’ve realized that being conservative is someone who thinks that a boy should be able to—a boy who thinks he’s a girl should be allowed to go into the girls’ locker room or shower.”
Worth noting: during the debate itself, McCrory referred to transgender Olympian Caitlyn Jenner as a “she,” but said, “If she’s going to a shower facility at UNC after running around the track, she’s going to use the men’s shower.” Also worth noting: the governor’s statements stood in contrast to the preponderance of scientific evidence, which suggests that transgender individuals have what appears to be a neuroanatomical disorder of sex development.
In part because of the HB 2 firestorm, the race for North Carolina governor has become one of the most-watched in the country. This hour-long debate, moderated by NBC’s Chuck Todd, was broadcast on C-Span. McCrory and Cooper clashed over body cameras, education funding, and—of course—HB 2, which Cooper said had cost the state millions of dollars and sullied its reputation. McCrory countered that the whole affair was the mess of the “very liberal” Cooper and Charlotte mayor Jennifer Roberts and accused Cooper of encouraging boycotts of the state since the law passed in March.
Much of the chatter the day after focuses on McCrory’s answer to a question about his support of Donald Trump, following Trump’s “grab ‘em by the pussy” comments surfaced. “[Trump] needs to have his mouth washed out with soap,” McCrory said, “but so does Mrs. Clinton, because teachers always said don’t tell a lie, and she lies an awful lot, about the emails, about Benghazi, about other factors. Maybe she needs to look at a bar of soap the next time she doesn’t tell the truth.” (Fact check: on the campaign trail, Clinton has been much, much more truthful than Trump.)
The governor, who said he was backing Trump because of his position on issues like immigration and Obamacare, was then asked if Trump was a role model for kids: “Not his vulgar verbal outbursts. I don’t like the personal attacks. I hate it.”
“Any part of him make him a role model?” Todd probed.
McCrory offered a response that will, in truncated fashion, almost certainly be coming to a television ad near you: “I think what makes him a role model is where he does stand strong on certain issues that need to be said, especially from outside Washington, D.C.”
At McCrory’s press conference afterward, a reporter characterized his debate style as aggressive. The governor seemed OK with that. “It’s nice to be able to not only defend my record but correct the record on the millions upon millions of dollars of ads which are being directed toward me,” he said. He also criticized his opponent for focusing too much on fundraising out of state and not enough on his day job. “We saw him very little as attorney general, and we don’t see him much on the campaign trail, either.”
At his post-game presser, Cooper issued his own condemnation of McCrory. “We learned that Governor McCrory believes Donald Trump is a role model,” he said. “And he’s doubled down on his support for Donald Trump when I thought he might withdraw it like other Republican leaders across the country.”
McCrory and Cooper will debate one more time, on October 18th, where they’ll be joined by Libertarian candidate Lon Cecil. Heading into the debate, Cooper held a 4.6 percentage point advantage in the race, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls.