Virginia, once a reliably red state, is strongly expected to vote for Democrats Hillary Clinton and its own junior Senator Tim Kaine this November. President Obama won the state in 2008 and 2012, Democrats have won every U.S. Senate race in the commonwealth since 2006, and all three statewide offices are currently held by Democrats. And a February poll found 57 percent of Virginians oppose allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBT people, even on the basis of “religious beliefs.”
Still, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) warned in a Wednesday interview on WTOP radio, Virginia could soon see the sort of anti-LGBT discrimination that North Carolina’s HB2 brought to its southern neighbor.
“In the end, I think it came down to us and North Carolina. And you know what happened… why they didn’t go to North Carolina? HB2. That has been crippling,” he explained. CoStar’s commercial real estate broker said earlier in the week that North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law was the deciding factor in the selection of Richmond over Charlotte. The law has been disastrous for North Carolina’s economy, costing the state jobs, investment, and sporting events.
But a strongly gerrymandered anti-LGBT state legislature under Republican control and a quirky election system could soon bring the same sort of discriminatory law to Virginia’s books. Unlike any other state, Virginia does not allow governors to run for re-election and its unusual odd-year elections often see lower voter turnout, especially for Democrats.
“I just remind all the Virginia listeners that I had a bill just like HB2 on my desk. It passed my General Assembly. I had a bill that would have de-funded parts of Planned Parenthood. It passed the General Assembly.” McAuliffe vetoed a so-called “religious freedom” bill and a bill to prohibit funding for any new clinics that perform abortions in March.
“We have a big governor’s race up next year. Now if you have a Republican governor, they will sign those bills and it will be crippling to the Virginia economy,” the governor said.
The four announced Republican candidates running in 2017 in Virginia— former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie, Rep. Rob Wittman, Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart, and state Sen. Frank Wagner — all have anti-LGBT records. The sole Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, has been a strong supporter of LGBT rights.