Raleigh, N.C. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper told business leaders Wednesday that House Bill 2 is costing the state jobs and should be repealed.
"We don't need this. We've got to get it behind us," Cooper told a gathering of the North Carolina Chamber in Raleigh.
Cooper, the state's attorney general, is running against Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.
After his formal remarks, Cooper told reporters that North Carolina "could improve our economy by getting rid of" House Bill 2.
On Wednesday morning, Republicans had blasted Cooper for urging companies to stay away from North Carolina due to the law.
"Roy Cooper’s fingerprints are all over the coordinated campaign to smear North Carolina and inflict economic damage on our state," said McCrory campaign manager Russell Peck, pointing to a story in the Wall Street Journal that indicated Cooper had been in touch with the chief executive of California-based Salesforce about the law.
"Instead of defending North Carolina, its business community and our hardworking citizens, Roy Cooper is actively communicating and working with the very CEOs who are trying to inflict economic damage on the state and prevent jobs from coming here," Peck said.
Cooper has refused defend House Bill 2 in court and said Wednesday he has communicated with a number of CEOs about the law.
"What I am doing is talking to businesses and telling them they need to come to North Carolina and they need to expand in North Carolina and that they need to work with us to get rid of this law," he said. "We don't need them to boycott North Carolina or to say that they're pulling out of North Carolina or pulling out of North Carolina in order to change things. We want them here to help us change things."
Cooper spoke to the N.C. Chamber the day after Donald Trump became the Republican Party's presumptive nominee for president.
"I've been concerned, and I've said this many times, about his divisive rhetoric and how he wants to try and divide people. I don't think we need that in North Carolina. In fact, we've got enough of that going on with our state leaders, and it's time for us to come together for positive change in North Carolina."
In the mean time, Republican leaders made a show of supporting Trump. North Carolina Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse used a Wednesday afternoon news conference to make a show of inviting Trump to the upcoming state convention on Saturday, and new GOP state Chairman Robin Hayes said it was "good news" the party had a nominee.
Asked about Trump's often abrasive rhetoric toward women and minorities, Hayes said, "The past is past. He has said some things I wouldn't have said. I saw him last night begin the cleanup process. I hope it continues."