Despite Tuesday's disappointing vote in the North Carolina Senate, there is one great story to report from the Tarheel State: Out lesbian LaWana Mayfield could become Charlotte's first openly LGBT council member after winning the all-important Democratic primary.
Mayfield ousted four-term incumbent Warren Turner with 51% of the votes in the 3-way race to represent District 3. "Mayfield faces a Republican opponent in the general election, but enters the fall contest a heavy favorite because the district traditionally backs Democrats," says the Victory Fund's Gay Politics blog.
Matt Comer at QNotes reports:
Mayfield is the fourth openly gay or lesbian candidate to run for local office in Charlotte; she’s also the first ever to win any election — primary or general — in the Queen City. She now faces Republican Ed Toney in the general election on Nov. 8. If successful, Mayfield will become the first openly gay or lesbian person elected to local office in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
Despite the historic nature of her campaign, Mayfield and her campaign director, Billy Kluttz, said LGBT issues figured a relatively small concern in the minds of voters. Kluttz said Mayfield will prove victorious in November. He also doesn’t think Mayfield’s sexual orientation will have much effect on voters’ decision.
"Folks have been clear about what they care about is having someone who shows up and LaWana has done that over and over again and that’s how we’ve really differentiated her from the incumbent," Kluttz said.
"I had hoped the community wanted to see something different and that they would support me but, honestly, I was never arrogant enough to assume that I’d win," Mayfield told qnotes. "I’m confident our community is ready for a change and they are confident in the fact that I’ll get on council and fight for the community and that I mean what I say."
Warren Turner has a history of making homophobic and sexist comments, as well as several complaints of sexual harassment. Turner was accused last year of asking employees and a fellow council member if a council staffer was a lesbian. Turner was eventually fired from his position as a probation officer with the North Carolina Department of Corrections.
There has been a renewed focus on Charlotte's record on LGBT issues as the city prepares to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The city council has also refused to update local anti-discrimination policies to include LGBTs. There are also no statewide protections for LGBT citizens or employees in North Carolina. The state's voters will also consider a constitutional ban on any same-sex partner recognition in May 2012.