Roy’s Gamble

by | Feb 28, 2017 | Carolina Strategic Analysis, Features | 12 comments

It is becoming increasingly obvious that Governor Roy Cooper will not entertain any compromise on HB 2. The latest compromise bill, HB 186, is currently making its way through the legislature. Truth be told, even if it managed to pass both chambers of the General Assembly with bipartisan support, Cooper would probably veto it. The people he listens to have made it clear that they want only a full repeal of HB 2, which is not a compromise.

So, why is Cooper acting in such an obstructionist manner? He is actually making a gamble: that by defying any legislative compromise, HB 2 will still be a potent issue going into the 2018 elections. If Cooper’s strategy is successful, then Republicans will receive the brunt of the blame for the law’s continued existence, and enough of them will be defeated for him to sustain a veto.

The truth is that Cooper is in a very weak position currently. His influence is limited to calling Democratic legislators on the phone and convincing them to scuttle any compromise – admittedly something at which he has proven quite effective. Overturning the Republican supermajorities will at least give him a seat at the negotiating table – bringing him up to Bev Perdue levels of power. For a weak governor, such a gamble might be a prudent choice of action.

The downside to this gamble is that the HB 2 issue only has traction in urban and suburban districts. The Republican legislators who presently represent those districts won their seats in spite of opposition to HB 2. Suburban voters overlooked legislators’ support for HB 2 and decided that, whatever their faults, they were better off than the alternative. And this was in the midst of an anti-Trump backlash that saw suburban Republicans abandon the leader of their party in droves. When the dust cleared, General Assembly Republicans survived with their supermajorities intact.

Cooper’s gamble rests on the assumption that things will be even worse for suburban Republicans in 2018. Midterms tend to be bad for the party currently in power, so that might not be a bad assumption to make. On the other hand, the party of the incumbent governor tends to lose seats in a midterm also. It could be a wash – and keep in mind that there will be no gubernatorial or Senate contest to draw voters to the polls next year. A backlash to Trump (if there is any) might be limited in North Carolina.

It also ignores the fact that, the more Cooper keeps killing compromises, the more voters begin to ask, “What’s with this guy?” and associate him with the lack of action on HB 2. By the time November 2018 rolls around, both parties could be seen as at fault.

Thus, Cooper’s gamble is a risky one. But he might have no other option. What do Democrats have to run on instead? HB 2 is the only card they have to play – and the longer they play it, the less effective it becomes.


  1. Eric Smith

    The latest “compromise” offered up by the Republicans in the General Assembly is the authorization of local referenda to invalidate nondiscrimination ordinances that may be passed by local governments. Such votes would be activated by a ridiculously small percentage of the registered voters in each locality. The ensuing public debate in local communities would be personal and embittered, essentially placing the rights and worth of minorities on the ballot to be judged by the majority, or at least the majority of those who voted. Governor Cooper and the Democrats are right to opposed this “compromise” on principle. They are not playing politics.
    My one regret in all of this is that the Charlotte City Council was not more forthright about which part of the original ordinance was being rescinded. Perhaps if their position had been clearly stated, that they would repeal the “bathroom” component but insist on preserving the rest, then HB2 would now be repealed in totality. And perhaps if we had accepted a reasonable six month moratorium before it was extended to cover the long session, we might have gotten a repeal.
    My choice of “compromises” now might be: six month moratorium, but allow the original Charlotte ordinance to be reenacted less the bathroom provision, which could then be resumed after six months if the political climate in Charlotte permitted.

  2. Troy

    Einstein wrote about insanity. He said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

    Yesterday we were confronted with Brother Wynne’s rendition of “Democracy.” Today, the Governor is “gambling”. Two variations on the same theme.

    Republicans are responsible for HB2; own it. The Governor has nothing to gamble John. HE didn’t embrace HB2. Quite the opposite actually. His predecessor embraced it while Berger and Moore let him wear it like a hat. They have thus far avoided the fallout. Well, the time is rapidly coming to pay the piper.

    You can bend it, twist it, point fingers at, and stand resolute in stark and utter amazement demanding compromise from Democrats when there is absolutely no compromise forthcoming from that “super majority” of Republicans you referenced. From them, its “draft it, we’ll let you know if we like it or not.” And of course, if it doesn’t give everything the Republicans want and absolve them of any and all responsibility for HB2, well, there’s just no working with Democrats, is there?

    No John, I don’t think you’re insane. But this Kellyanne Conway imitation is getting real old, real fast.

  3. D J B

    What has 6 years with the NCAA got to do with it? Does the NCAA make schedules for 6 years? I could less if another NCAA or ACC tournament is held in NC.
    Why does Roy want it done NOW!!!. He does not want to give in to anything. So the ones that agree to it, it does not matter if middle school boys and high school boys use the girls shower and dressing room. That is the part I do not understand.

    • A.D. Reed

      There is so much you don’t understand, DJB.

      First, the NCAA does make schedules for six years, and has announced a deadline (next week) by which they will decide on locations for all tournaments through 2022. I, too, could care less about the tournament, but it will cost the state a huge amount in lost revenues, which means your tax dollars will be stretched farther to pay for schools, roads, safety, clean air & water, etc. etc.

      Second, all thinking people want it done ASAP. We’ve been revolted and angered by the existence of the bill for more than 11 months, and the Governor has tried twice to get the Rethugs to repeal it. Both times they’ve broken their word — which is no surprise.

      As for middle-school and high-school boys using the girls shower and dressing room, they won’t. The “boys” you’re thinking of identify as girls, look like and dress like and think like girls, and want only to be girls. The fact is that sometimes genitals don’t match chromosomes or brain wiring, and when that’s the case, the brain wins out — either before actual surgery or after.

  4. Stephen Lewis, Sr.


    I think you misread Roy Cooper, He has been around for about thirty years and in that time he has learned a thing or two. Political people used to marvel at Bill Clinton’s skill at knowing and understanding polling. Well Roy Cooper has those same skills. I am not saying anything about the merits of this issue, just that he know how to understand the pulse of what people here are doing, and if and when he needs to compromise he will. But for now if he is not going with a compromise he must know something about the mood of the public you don’t.

  5. TbeT

    Nope. Wrong again, Wynne. In your partisan alternative universe and echo-chamber, you fail to understand.

    The GOP owns HB2 100%, and the voters know it. The NCAA will walk away from hosting championships in NC for 6 years to come, and it will be the GOP’s fault.

    It was theirs when they rammed it through, in hours, not taking any compromises or amendments.
    It was theirs when they reneged on the “deal to repeal” in December.
    It was theirs when clear warnings were received from the NBA and NCAA, and they ignored those (as they are ignoring the NCAA’s message again right now).
    It is theirs now to repeal–with their super-majority, they do not need a compromise from Cooper or a single vote from the Dems to do so.

    It’s their awful law, and now is their continuing albatross and delusion, their bane and blind-spot.

    And it shows that they care more about partisan politics and ideology than the state’s economy or anybody’s civil rights.

    • Sandy

      Exactly right!

    • Jay Ligon

      Excedrin headache number 297 is caused by trying to get my mind around the deranged thinking of the proponents of HB2, the unenforceable, unconstitutional, ineffectual, unnecessary bathroom law. The law continues to cause proponents of sanity to tilt their heads like the RCA Victor dog waiting for a rational reason to finally boom through the Republican victrola horn, but wait we will, frozen in time, forever. Republicans posture like superheros in homemade costumes fighting phantasms from their overactive imaginations.

      One must think like a child molester to see the the theoretical danger to our children, which does not exist on the reality side of the rainbow and has never been a problem in any court in any county in North Carolina. The Republicans cannot cite a single case in which a transgender male or female tried to take a shower with a child or to pick up a child in a toilet. Why? Because it doesn’t happen. The law is the product of profound, breath-taking ignorance coupled with the hope that this is a good gamble for the right wing.

      Instead of wiping the slate and moving on, the Republican believe there is some political capital left in the dog that won’t hunt. They think there is a strategic play left? This is the banter of crazy people talking to themselves.

      The rest of the world knows HB2 was not just bad law. It was crazy law. Only the Republicans in the bowels of Jones Street have faith in it; they have committed the state’s fortunes to their perverse vision. They have gambled and lost, gambled again and lost again. They keep rolling the dice like gambling addicts, trying to catch up, trying to break even, hoping for a big score. In the meantime, our money and our jobs are departing. This is bad country music. Republicans! Get real!

  6. Walter RAnd

    I’m not as versed as you on this issue but from where I sit the Governor is not the obstructionist you call him. In a compromise both sides get something they want. Roy wants repeal of HB2. What does the legislature want from Roy? What have they proposed? Proposing to undercut the repeal of HB2 means sabotaging the compromise. Taking away what the other side wants is not compromise. I’m not saying it would be a good idea, but the legislature could propose that Roy drop his separation of powers lawsuit or some such. Roy could counter that he would agree if the legislature passed a bill stating that no future bill altering the governor’s power can go into effect until the term of the most-recently-elected governor or governor-to-be has ended. The Republicans in power in the legislature do not seem from the outside to be making such legitimate compromise proposals. Do you have information that they are?

    • John Wynne

      As far as I know, full repeal is not on the table. I doubt it would even be considered unless the governor gave up something valuable. He doesn’t want to give up anything, so it’s full speed ahead on the “full repeal, no strings attached” strategy.

  7. Brendan

    Gov. Cooper just proposed a very reasonable compromise two weeks ago, which would solve the problem and address the GOP’s concerns. It was DOA in the legislature. They responded with a false “compromise” that would encourage mini-HB2s to be passed on a local level throughout the state. Good luck convincing anyone that Cooper is the intransigent one.

  8. willard cottrell

    What you say is true. However, if the republicans in Congress throw out ACA, I then believe it creates a new dynamic.

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