The release contained emails sent to the governor’s office detailing the pressure Gov. Pat McCrory was under to sign HB2 and business’ reactions to the new law.
Pressure to sign
State political figures and religious leaders alike sent emails to McCrory to pressure him to overturn the Charlotte non-discrimination ordinance passed in February.
In an email to Fred Steen, McCrory’s legislative liaison to the N.C. General Assembly at the time, Frank Turek, a Christian author and speaker, initially criticized the governor for not doing enough after the passage of the Charlotte ordinance.
“This kind of inaction is exactly what is feeding the anti-establishment rage,” Turek said. “If the Republicans don’t want to be engulfed by the (Donald) Trump wave, they better get off their butts and do something before this dangerous ordinance goes into effect in April.”
The Charlotte ordinance was passed Feb. 22 and HB2 was passed during a special legislative session March 23.
Bob Stephens, McCrory’s general counsel, sent an email to Charlotte lawyer Bob Turner that said the governor opposed HB2 but passed it anyway.
“You have no idea how hard the governor worked to limit it,” Stephens said in the email. “He told the legislature that it went too far. We lobbied against it and even drafted our own version of the bill but it was not accepted.”
The emails also contained concerns from private companies.
A partner at the Parker Poe law firm, which represents Apple, sent an email to a McCrory staffer that said Lisa Jackson, vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, wanted to speak with the governor.
After PayPal canceled 400 jobs in Charlotte, Stephens expressed his concern for the economic fallout in a response to an email.
“I’m afraid some of the tech companies in the (Research Triangle Park) are going to be next,” he said.
Some small business owners also shared their thoughts on HB2 and the Charlotte ordinance.
Brion Blais, owner of SpeedPro Imaging-Charlotte Center and member of the Charlotte Chamber, said HB2 would encourage economic development.
“I suspect there would be fewer attendees at public events otherwise,” he said.
Rick Thames, executive editor of the Charlotte Observer, said the Observer did not intend to affect the gubernatorial race in publishing the emails, but the governor’s office waited until after the lawsuit was filed to fulfill the records request.
“I don’t think it’s right that news media have to sue their public officials to obtain public records, and I hope the legislature is watching,” Thames said.
Steven Greene, a political science professor at N.C. State University, said the emails could be used against McCrory to suggest that he doesn’t actually support a social conservative agenda.
“The thing is, pieces of information like this are really effective when they fit a kind of preexisting narrative about a candidate,” he said.
At the same time, Greene said this information would not be particularly new for many North Carolinians.
“Honestly, I think it confirms what a lot of people really suspected, and what I’ve been saying all along is that I don’t think Pat McCrory really wanted it, but he decided politically that he needed to jump in with both feet and double down on this and support what the conservatives in the legislature had done,” he said.