At an April 25 rally for supporters of a law that keeps transgender people from using the public bathroom of their choice, Sen. Buck Newton, the GOP nominee for North Carolina attorney general says, "Keep our state straight." (Progress North Carolina Action)

Democrats in North Carolina want their Republican governor to disavow a call from his party’s candidate for attorney general to “keep our state straight” — and they want that candidate, State Sen. Buck Newton, to apologize.

Newton made the remarks at a Monday rally in which he discussed House Bill 2, the controversial measure that rocketed to passage in a single day last month. Now a law, the measure prohibits local governments from extending anti-discrimination protections to gay and transgender people, while also banning transgender individuals from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to the gender on their birth certificate.

The so-called “bathroom bill” was greeted with widespread criticism from liberals and praise from conservatives. Newton shepherded the legislation through his chamber, according to the Associated Press.

In a three-minute video recorded by Progress North Carolina Action, a man identified by the liberal group as Newton begins by acknowledging limited sympathy for the transgender community.

“We all know folks that have a difficult time. Whether folks are struggling with drugs or struggling with their marriages, figuring out what it is that they’re supposed to be doing in life, we can all have sympathy for that,” he said. “But that does not mean that we should expose our wives and our sisters and our children to the sexual predators in the bathrooms. We must say no. We must say no.”

He then invokes his opponent, state Sen. Josh Stein (D), without naming him.

“He wants to make me the poster child of this bill. And you know what? I say ‘bring it on,’ ” Newton said, his arms outstretched.

In the end, he thanks the crowd.

“Go home, tell your friends and family who had to work today what this is all about and how hard we had to fight to keep our state straight,” he said.

A spokesman for the North Carolina Democratic Party on Tuesday described Newton’s comments as revealing.

“One of the Republican sponsors of HB 2 just admitted the real purpose of the law: to make North Carolina unwelcoming to LGBT people,” Dave Miranda said in a statement. 

He then called for the law’s repeal and described the comments as undemocratic.

“Saying we need to ‘fight to keep our state straight’ is unacceptable, especially for someone who says he wants to represent the people of North Carolina,” Miranda said. “Newton must apologize for his remarks, and [Gov. Pat] McCrory must denounce them.”

The law remains controversial in North Carolina, where police arrested 54 protesters against the law late Monday, according to the Associated Press. Thousands who support the law attended the rally where Newton delivered his comments.

Newton could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.