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Mecklenburg's Last Republican Legislator Talks Taxes, HB2 And 2020

Dan Bishop / Twitter
North Carolina Sen. Dan Bishop

In the November election, Republican after Republican fell in Mecklenburg County: Scott Stone, Andy Dulin and Bill Brawley in the N.C. House. Jeff Tarte in the state Senate. 

After that Blue Wave that surprised even the most optimistic Democrats, there is only one Republican left: State Sen. Dan Bishop.

In a district that the legislature had drawn to protect him, Bishop defeated Democrat Chad Stachowicz by six percentage points – a pretty small margin compared to his double-digit win two years ago.

Bishop, a Charlotte attorney, is best known as a co-sponsor of House Bill 2 – the now-overturned law that repealed the expansion of Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance. He also will be one of the few Republicans left from large cities. He spoke with WFAE political reporter Steve Harrison.

Steve Harrison: Senator, so what does it mean for Charlotte to be represented by almost all Democrats when Republicans still control the legislature?

Dan Bishop: It depends on the actions of a lot of people, not just me. I have a very good relationship with Mayor Vi Lyles and think she’s done a marvelous job, and she and I communicate very well. That’s one example.

Harrison: I know you can’t look in the future, but are there specific issues, maybe like transit funding, where Charlotte may not have as strong of a voice as it once did?

Bishop: So one thing that Republicans have done since 2011 is tax reform, successfully by the way, in order to reduce income and sales tax burdens on families. And at the same time, maintain a growing economy that has caused revenues to increase. We’ll be looking to protect that accomplishment.

Harrison: You narrowly won re-election, and to do so, you had to go very negative against your Democratic opponent. 2020 will be a big year, or a motivated year, for Democrats. Will you be able to hang on to your seat?

Bishop: You know Steve, I don’t fret about those things too much. It’s way too early to know whether I’ll be running for re-election in 2020. I have always believed in being clear about who I am and what I believe. And I think voters need distinctions. And if voters decide in Mecklenburg County that they don’t want any conservatives in Raleigh representing them, I’ve always been content with that judgment, if that judgment is forthcoming.

Harrison: Dan, you co-sponsored HB2, and that issue is going to be coming again next year when cities and towns will be free to pass their own non-discrimination ordinances. Is there going to be a path forward or will this be a repeat? Will there be an HB2-2, so to speak?

Bishop: Things like that that occur are usually the product of particular individuals fomenting controversy. HB2, of course, was a reaction to decisions made locally but was led in a very eager way by then-mayor Jennifer Roberts. I don’t think, had Vi Lyles been mayor – although she certainly agreed policy-wise with the issue -  that it would have taken the same course that it took.

Harrison: One more question on that. Let’s say if Charlotte in 2020, if [the City Council] moved to create an ordinance that extended legal protections but made no mention about bathrooms, which was discussed four years ago. If they did that, do you think the legislature would let that pass and not intervene?

Bishop: Hard to say. It’s hard for me to see the legislature itching to intervene. I don’t think it was itching to intervene except for that extraordinary circumstance. The point is there is far more latitude to resolve issues than is recognized in general.

If you want to read more about politics from WFAE's Steve Harrison, check out the new political newsletter Inside Politics. You can subscribe to it here.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.