Opinion

You know who else doesn’t like HB2? Republicans

The NCGOP is objecting to a forum this week that explores the unpopular law.
The NCGOP is objecting to a forum this week that explores the unpopular law. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

There are a lot of people in North Carolina who don’t like HB2. There are members of the LGBT community, of course, as well as business owners and workers who’ve watched revenue leave our cities and state. There’s also a group that’s a little more quiet about its distaste: Republicans.

Specifically, elected Republicans. Most whom I’ve spoken to privately wish that HB2 had never been passed. They know it was a political reach that backfired, and they wish the law could just go away. One N.C. Republican called for just that in a campaign ad last week.

So it’s understandable that the NCGOP is unhappy this week with an HB2 forum the Charlotte Observer is hosting Wednesday night. But in a rather incredible letter to N.C. Board of Elections director Kim Strach late Monday, NCGOP chairman Robin Hayes called for the state to stop people from talking bad about the law.

Hayes said the forum is essentially a campaign event for Democrats, and that as such it would be a “contribution” that violates N.C. election law. The event should be canceled, Hayes said, and its hosts and sponsors should be “appropriately sanctioned.”

That’s not going to happen. The HB2 forum is not a campaign event. It’s an opportunity for leaders and the public to discuss an issue that – perhaps more than any other this year – has shaped this election and this state.

To that end, the forum’s panel includes a prominent Charlotte Republican, former mayor Richard Vinroot, as well as Mitch Kokai, a senior political analyst for the conservative-leaning John Locke Foundation, and David Chadwick, a Charlotte faith and values leader. If you’re holding a campaign event, it’s kind of unusual to invite people who might disagree with you, no?

Hayes’ letter didn’t mention that, by the way, nor did he note that a month ago, the Observer also invited Gov. Pat McCrory, Republican lawmakers and N.C. Values Coalition executive director Tami Fitzgerald to participate in a forum and perhaps provide an affirming perspective on HB2. No one accepted the offer.

We understand. HB2 is hard to defend. That’s why Republicans have tried hard in recent months to make it go away. It’s why they’ve talked about “resets” and “starting over” and compromises that really aren’t compromises.

It’s also why Hayes and the NCGOP crafted Monday’s distraction about potential election law violations. The alternative is to participate in an honest, public look at HB2. And as Republicans know, that not a good look for them at all.

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