GREENSBORO, N.C. — Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine hit his Republican counterpart for the first time on the campaign trail on Wednesday in a state that has become known nationwide for its controversial and headline-making legislative agenda.
The Virginia senator attempted to tie Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence to contentious legislation in North Carolina that attempted to regulate which bathroom transgender people could use and prohibited local governments from installing their own anti-discrimination policies and raising their minimum wage beyond the state’s level. The law caused immediate backlash when passed earlier this year and prompted a number of people, businesses and events to boycott the state.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence faced similar backlash last year when he signed a “religious freedom” law that critics said would legalize discrimination against the LGBT community.
"The vice presidential nominee on the Republican side Mike Pence did something like the North Carolina bill,” Kaine said. "Found that immediately, discriminating against LGBT people immediately companies started to pull out. You're seeing those announcements in North Carolina too, whether it's the all-star game or PayPal. Same thing happened in Indiana and he had to kind of do a U-turn.”
Kaine added that Pence has been "somebody who has said 'LGBT people would bring about a societal collapse.' That's just not right folks, just not right, just not right.”
This was the first time Kaine publicly took on Pence since the senator was chosen by Hillary Clinton as her running-mate, but a few days before being picked, Kaine also told NBC News that he viewed Pence’s record as “anti-civil rights.”
The focus of most of Kaine’s time since getting on the road after the convention has been on Hillary Clinton’s jobs and infrastructure plans and blasting Trump for not living up to some of his promises in the business world. In the last week, Kaine has been repeatedly citing reported cases, like those documented by USA Today, where some small business owners alleged that Trump never paid them for their work.
Earlier Wednesday, Kaine visited the AmeriFab International factory in High Point, a local business that makes bedding and drapery, where he took a tour and chatted with some employees, while trying to draw a stark contrast with Trump’s business practices.
"He has a track record with small businesses and the track record--including businesses in the drapery area that have supplied his hotels and casinos,” Kaine told reporters during the tour. "The track record tends to be, 'hey I’ll make a promise to you, I want your help, sell me what you have' and people do that and they're proud, they're excited to be part of maybe a casino in Las Vegas or Atlantic City or a big project. But then the small businesses go down the path with Donald Trump and believe him and when it's all done they don't get paid.”
The Tar Heel state remains an important battleground as well as a hotbed for a controversial conservative agenda.
Kaine on Wednesday also celebrated a recent federal appeals court decision that struck down parts of North Carolina’s controversial voting law that judges claimed was unfairly aimed at African Americans. The law included installing a voter ID requirement, reducing early voting, and eliminating same-day voting registration. “There was an intent to discriminate against African Americans and keep African Americans and minorities from being able to participate like others could,” he said, predicting that . "And so when folks try and divide us, when folks try to prefer one group and kick the other to the curb, we've got to have a vigorous court system.”
The trip marked Kaine’s first to North Carolina since joining Clinton’s ticket, and he made it clear that he intends to spend a lot of time here, along with Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, President Obama and Michelle Obama. "I'm here in Greensboro to basically tell you that North Carolina really, really matters,” he said. "You really, really matter."