Close gubernatorial race in NC heats up

A neck and neck election is happening this year between a moderate Democrat and a Republican who has been doubling down on controversial issues and rhetoric over the past few months. However, this refers not to the presidential election but to the election for the next North Carolina governor.

The two men running are current North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, Republican and current State Attorney General Roy Cooper, Democrat.

This gubernatorial election is incredibly close, with the latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll conducted by the Marist Institute showing Cooper polling 49 percent of likely voters and McCrory at 48 percent.

A heated campaign is unusual to see, due to McCrory’s status as incumbent. In North Carolina’s history no incumbent governor has ever lost their re-election bid. Yet the issues that matter most to the state right now may cause a change in that.

Two of those biggest issues are House Bill 2 and education, with each campaign taking completely different sides on HB2 yet similar stances on education.

HB2, sometimes called the “bathroom bill,” is a controversial piece of legislature that McCrory has defended a number of times. The bill limits the governing abilities of municipalities, but it also prevents transgender people in particular from using the restroom of their choice.

The bathroom focus of the law is at the centerpiece of the controversy. Many people feel that it is discriminatory against transgender people’s rights.

“He’s marketing the bill as protecting girls and women in the bathroom and it’s not protecting women if it’s targeting trans people,” said Sojourner Davidson, sophomore and co-president of Guilford’s Pride club.

Cooper himself came out as being against the bill within a week of it being signed into law.

“We’re talking about discrimination here,” said Cooper during an announcement back in March. “Not only is this new law a national embarrassment, it will set North Carolina’s economy back.”

And, the economic impact of the bill has been widespread. According to a report by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, North Carolina lost $4.8 billion in federal funding because of the bill. Many businesses have moved out of state and several events have been cancelled.

Money continues to be an important aspect of this election when it comes to education. One of McCrory’s key points is that he has raised the pay of teachers as governor.

“McCrory has been arguing that he’s been raising teacher pay, which is true,” said Maria Rosales, associate professor of political science. “But, it all depends on where your starting point is.”

Last year, yearly wages for elementary, middle and secondary school educators in North Carolina were between $10,000 and $15,000 below the national averages for teacher pay, according to the website Teaching Degree.

Cooper likewise argued in a debate that when he was in the state legislature, he prioritized teacher pay, though North Carolina did not break the national average during that time period either.

Of these two main issues, HB2 in particular represents a growing trend of polarization in both major parties.

“People’s ideologies are sort of tightening up so that if you believe, say, in conservative principles in one area you tend to believe them in this other area,” said Rosales.

This polarization leaves many people wondering about the system for elections themselves, viewing two options as something too limited when it comes to something as long and complicated as political leanings.

“You know, the two party system: what is it good for?” said Niall Donegan, senior and co-president of Pride.

Although the Libertarian party does have ballot access in the state, their candidate Lon Cecil is only polling between 1 to 4 percent on recent surveys.

The results of this election will have major ramifications for the state no matter who wins, so each and every vote matters.