The architect of North Carolina’s infamous anti-LGBTQ House Bill 2 has won the Republican primary in a special election for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Dan Bishop, currently a state senator, “easily won” the primary Tuesday for the GOP nomination in the Ninth Congressional District, The Charlotte Observer reports. He received 48 percent of the vote in a field of 10 candidates; his closest rival had 20 percent.
The special election in the Charlotte-area district will take place because last November’s vote, which saw the narrow victory of an equally anti-LGBTQ Republican, Mark Harris, over Democrat Dan McCready, was nullified due to evidence of fraud relating to collection of absentee ballots. Five people have been arrested on fraud charges. McCready, who supports LGBTQ rights, will run against Bishop in the special election September 10.
Bishop was the chief sponsor of HB 2, which North Carolina legislators passed in 2016 but has since been partially repealed. The measure was known as a “bathroom bill” because it prohibited transgender people from accessing the restrooms and other single-sex facilities comporting with their gender identity when those facilities are in government buildings, including public schools and state colleges and universities. It also, among other things, prevented state and county governments from enacting or enforcing LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws. The state suffered boycotts by businesses, entertainers, and sporting events as a result.
Bishop takes far-right positions on other issues as well. “In the age of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, socialism, and perhaps infanticide, you need to send a warrior to Washington, D.C.,” he said at one campaign event, according to the Observer. “Someone who can fight with a smile on his face.” He is a major supporter of Donald Trump and in 2017 had made a crowdfunding investment in a website called Gab, which promotes white supremacist views. Bishop said he was not aware of the site’s slant, but there is evidence to the contrary, the Observer reports.
Harris, who had bested incumbent Robert Pittenger in last year’s GOP primary, opted not to run in the special election because of health problems. He is a former Baptist minister who led the 2012 campaign for an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. He has expressed longing for the days when being gay was illegal and questioned whether it was “healthy” for women to work outside the home. After the claims of voter fraud emerged, House Democrats refused to seat Harris, and McCready withdrew his concession of the election. In February the North Carolina Board of Elections decided to call the special election.
Bishop has dismissed criticism that his backing of HB 2 will be a liability in the race. “I think people are ready to move on,” he said during the campaign. “There are new issues. … There’s a fascination with the media about it.”
However, Democrats and LGBTQ activists are unlikely to forget or forgive. Lucas Acosta, LGBTQ media director for the Democratic National Committee, released the following statement: “Senator Bishop’s brand of anti-equality driven extremism has no place in the U.S. Congress. Senator Bishop’s war on the LGBTQ community not only embarrassed North Carolina, it cost hundreds of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars and could have cost billions in lost investment across the state. North Carolinians need a congressman who will put their interests first, not someone whose entire political career has been driven by an extreme social vendetta against LGBTQ people.”