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Political notebook: Poll shows Cooper leading McCrory in gubernatorial race

A poll released this week by Elon University shows Democrat Roy Cooper is ahead of incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory in North Carolina’s contentious governor’s race.

Cooper, the state’s current attorney general, leads McCrory 48 percent to 42 percent among registered voters, according to Elon’s poll. The lead is larger than the 3.93 margin of error for the poll, which surveyed 621 self-identified North Carolina voters.

In Elon’s survey, Cooper also received a higher approval rating than McCrory. A total of 43 percent of voters approve of the job Cooper is doing as attorney general, 27 percent disapprove and 30 percent were unsure.

By comparison, a total of 37 percent of voters approve of the job McCrory is doing, 49 percent disapprove and 14 percent were unsure. It’s the lowest approval rating for McCrory in Elon University’s polls since April 2014.

The polling results come after weeks of heated political rhetoric over House Bill 2, which overturned a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance, requires people to use the bathroom that corresponds with his or her biological gender, prevents local governments from raising the minimum wage and bars people from suing in state court for being fired for discriminatory reasons.

The Elon University poll also asked about House Bill 2 and found half of registered voters in North Carolina believe state lawmakers shouldn’t allow cities to pass ordinances similar to Charlotte’s, which allowed transgender people to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. A total of 39 percent of voters say cities should be allowed to pass similar ordinances and laws.

The opposite is true for minimum wage. Half of voters said cities should be able to raise the minimum wage and 44 percent said state law should dictate the minimum wage.

Another question in Elon’s poll asked about North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race, which features Republican incumbent Sen. Richard Burr and Democratic challenger Deborah Ross. The poll found Burr has a 37 percent to 33 percent lead.

Obama wants HB2 repealed, too

In the latest political feud over House Bill 2, President Barack Obama is calling for the measure to be repealed.

Obama joins a massive group of businesses and politicians in opposition to the measure. Obama made his remarks Friday during a visit to London, and Gov. McCrory’s office rapidly responded.

For his part, Obama said the law is in response to politics and strong emotions by some people. He said it’s important not to send signals that anyone is treated differently. The comments come following a travel advisory by the United Kingdom, which warned about possible discrimination if they travel to North Carolina and Mississippi.

“I want everybody here in the United Kingdom to know that people of North Carolina and Mississippi are wonderful people, are hospitable people, they are beautiful states, and you are welcome, and you should come and enjoy yourselves,” he said. “And I think you’ll be treated with extraordinary hospitality. I also think that the laws that have been passed there are wrong, and should be overturned.”

Josh Ellis, McCrory’s communications director, responded by saying all people are welcome to North Carolina.

“Governor McCrory agrees with President Obama that all people are welcome to our state and everybody will be treated well with extraordinary hospitality,” Ellis said in an emailed statement. “However, the governor respectfully disagrees with the political left’s national agenda to mandate changes to basic, common-sense restroom norms.”

Rep. Hudson’s jobs bill passes Senate

A measure co-authored by Rep. Richard Hudson that aims to improve job-training programs passed the U.S. Senate this week.

Hudson’s bill, which was cosponsored by Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush, passed the U.S. House in February as a standalone provision. It was included in a separate provision in the Senate called the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015. Now, the Senate and House will go to conference over the Senate Measure and a similar one passed in the House in December.

If it becomes law, Hudson’s measure would direct the Secretary of Energy to work to identify skills needed in a 21st century energy economy. Then, the secretary would be directed to encourage state education agencies with those skills.  It would connect individuals with job-training programs.

In a news release about the measure’s passage in the Senate, Hudson said: “Like most North Carolinians, my priorities are jobs, the economy, and making sure we have access to reliable and affordable energy. That’s why I’m pleased to see the Senate supported my bipartisan bill to close the skills gap by strengthening job-training programs and empowering workers to get and keep 21st century energy and manufacturing jobs.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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