Democratic candidate and Attorney General Roy Cooper has a lead over Gov. Pat McCrory, polling at 48.5 percent to McCrory’s 44.5 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.
Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College, said the negative publicity surrounding HB2 has hurt McCrory. He said McCrory’s emphasis on economic recovery in his campaign is at odds with his support of HB2.
A recent High Point University poll found 61 percent of N.C. prospective voters said the economic impact of HB2 has been large.
“He’s trying to make it an election about the economy and about how things have come back for the state,” Bitzer said. “But when you have major companies like the ACC and the NCAA announce that they’re pulling out of the state, that tends to take a narrative that doesn’t fit with how he’s trying to frame the issue.”
McCrory’s support of HB2 shows his alignment with the Republican state legislature, said Ferrel Guillory, a UNC journalism professor.
“I don’t think McCrory is going to win or lose because of HB2,” he said. “But it has become a signature omen that defined McCrory as having gone along with the sharp conservative agenda of the legislature.”
Bitzer said the attention on McCrory has allowed Cooper to stay out of the limelight.
Guillory said teacher pay and public education are also important to voters in this election. The High Point poll found 81 percent of prospective voters thought public school teachers were paid too little.
“Teacher pay has eroded over the past decade and the Republicans are blaming Democrats for that,” he said. “Democrats are saying that teacher pay has eroded because of the recession and Republicans have not moved strongly to make it more robust.”
McCrory approved a one-time October bonus for state employees, including teachers, equal to .5 percent of their annual salary.
Thomas Carsey, a UNC political science professor, said the bonus appears to be an appeal to voters.
“In terms of whether a bonus is a good way to do that, the feedback that I hear is that it’s not quite insulting, but a one-time small bonus doesn’t do much to help people pay their mortgage or send their kids to school,” he said.
Guillory said Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate will be a pivotal moment in the race.
“There’s only one debate and that will be a milestone moment because the entire state will see them side-by-side and that certainly gives Cooper a chance to show that he can measure up to being governor.”