CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - In a tight gubernatorial race, House Bill 2 may be a defining element.
On Tuesday, the two men vying to become the State's next top executive took their pitch to Charlotte, where the debate over gender identity rights began in North Carolina.
"It feels good to be home," said Governor Pat McCrory, who spent several terms as mayor.
McCrory spoke for seven and a half minutes on HB2 before a seemingly supportive crowd at a Rotary International luncheon. He called it, "the elephant in the room."
McCrory, one of many who helped recruit the NBA, ACC, and NCAA games to the Queen City needed to explain the state's role in their exodus.
"What the state legislature basically said was that the City of Charlotte cannot put a regulation on the private sector regarding this issue," said McCrory. "Three times this year, including the last four days, I have tried to work with leadership, both in the House and the Senate and local leadership to find a solution."
McCrory went on to say the issue was bigger than Charlotte and bigger than North Carolina. He said it will be decided by the courts.
Meanwhile, at the Hood-Hargett luncheon in the Southpark area, Attorney General Roy Cooper took several questions from the audience and from reporters about the HB2 fallout.
"I think it's clear," Cooper told reporters. "We know what will work: repeal of HB 2. That's what will stop the economic damage."
"I hope if bad legislation like HB2 comes forward in the General Assembly that I would be able to veto it and have that veto sustained," said Cooper about the need to work with a likely GOP-controlled General Assembly. He spent several minutes speaking about his ability to work across party lines and his hope to build consensus.
As North Carolina and Charlotte voters watch the HB2 effect play out, it's clear the fallout is not just financial, but political, too.
"I think November will be the deciding factor. One - to see who will be the chief executive come January, and two - what kind of numbers are in the legislature for the Republican majority," said Catawba College Provost and political science professor Michael Bitzer.
A recent Elon University poll found only four percent of likely voters had not heard about HB2. Bitzer believes HB2 will remain at the forefront of the gubernatorial race and others.