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North Carolina's anti-LGBTQ law could cost Republicans the governor's mansion

Across the country, North Carolina's anti-LGBTQ law has triggered a national debate over transgender people in bathrooms. But it's also had another effect within North Carolina: It's badly hurting the Republican Party during a big election year.

This year, North Carolina is holding elections for state offices, with the governor's mansion and state General Assembly up for grabs.

But a new poll by the conservative Civitas Institute has bad news for the GOP: If the governor's race were held today, 46 percent of likely voters in North Carolina would vote for Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democratic candidate, compared to 36 percent who would vote for Republican incumbent Pat McCrory, who signed the state's anti-LGBTQ measure into law.

Likewise, when it comes to the General Assembly, 45 percent of the state's likely voters would vote for a Democrat, and 38 percent would vote for a Republican.

It's unclear just how much this will bleed over into the national election, given the very unusual election year, with Donald Trump looking like the Republican nominee. But the Senate and presidential races, based on Civitas's poll, both look like genuine toss-ups in a state that's typically known as fairly conservative.

Civitas's poll isn't the first with these findings. A previous poll from Public Policy Polling of North Carolina voters found McCrory trailing Cooper for the first time in three months — with Cooper barely leading (within the margin of error) McCrory 43 to 42. PPP also found Republicans in the state legislature have worse favorability ratings, at -22 percentage points, than the Democrats, at -14 percentage points.

It is impossible to say how much North Carolina's anti-LGBTQ law is playing into these numbers for the Republicans, but it seems like a likely cause. PPP found 36 percent of North Carolina voters support the law, while 45 percent are opposed. And the law has turned into an economic issue after PayPal and Deutsche Bank pulled expansions from the state, costing the state hundreds of jobs.

McCrory certainly seems worried about the law's effect, appearing in national media outlets like Fox News to defend the measure.

But while the law may cost Republicans the governor's mansion, its impact on the state legislature remains very unclear. Republicans have a stranglehold on the body, with the party holding more than 60 percent of the General Assembly's seats. And 53 of those seats — nearly one-third of the entire legislature, most of which are held by Republicans — will go unchallenged because a challenger didn't file to run.

Still, all the other seats are potentially up for grabs. And the polling shows Democrats have a theoretical advantage since North Carolina passed its anti-LGBTQ law.

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