LaWana Mayfield speaks from the stage at a 2013 Charlotte Black Gay Pride event.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A record number of openly gay and lesbian people are tossing their hat into the ring for a chance to represent constituents in cities and towns across North Carolina. Many popular incumbents — like Chapel Hill and Carrboro Mayors Mark Kleinschmidt and Lydia Lavelle — are running for re-election, along with incumbents in Charlotte. Here, the city’s two openly gay City Council members are facing challengers in their Democratic primaries and two more openly gay candidates are running for an at-large and District 7 seat.

District 3’s LaWana Mayfield was the first openly LGBT candidate elected to office in the city in 2011 — beating out then-incumbent Warren Turner in a bitter primary that included intense media and community scrutiny on 2010 allegations that Turner had sexually harassed a female city employee he thought was a lesbian. That same year, Turner was dismissed from his job as a probation officer; he was reinstated in a different position in 2012.

Turner, now, is seeking to retake his District 3 seat, presenting a primary challenge to Mayfield. She also faces a third Democratic challenger, Rosa Hodge-Mustafa.

Mayfield said she isn’t worried and is standing on her record for her re-election bid.

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“I’m able to run on my record,” she told qnotes. “In this short three-and-a-half years, I have done a lot of work. … Previously, a lot of the conversation was about the lack of development on the Westside. You can no longer say that.”

Mayfield points to millions of dollars in investments coming from the Goodwill Opportunity Campus on Wilkinson Blvd., new housing developments uplifting real estate prices and new city infrastructure projects, including a new police station on West Blvd. and the construction of new sidewalks, including an expedited project on W. Tyvola Rd., where two brothers, aged 1 and 5, were struck and killed while walking on the side of the road with their father in 2012.

Mayfield also pointed to the new UTC Aerospace and Sealed Air headquarters in her district and blossoming businesses in portions of South End.

“There are so many opportunities that have happened, specifically on the Westside, that I’m proud to be a part of,” she said.

Turner’s and Hodge-Mustafa’s challenge could be a part of an effort to unseat Mayfield. She thinks some of her positions — including her controversial stand for a fully-inclusive LGBT non-discrimination ordinance which Council rejected on March 2 — have been unpopular with more conservative-minded Democrats in the city.

“Yes, there’s definitely a movement I’m seeing on the ground to look for more conservative leadership,” she said. “I stand by my record. I have always fought for equality and the working poor and the unemployed.”

Mayfield added, “If the community wants to have an independent voice not led by any particular group or individual, then they’ll keep me in office so I can continue to fighting for all of my district and community and not just segments of it.”

Mayfield has received an endorsement from the Victory Fund, a national LGBT candidates training and leadership institute.

Record number of candidates

In addition to Mayfield, District 2’s Al Austin is seeking re-election. He became the first openly gay man popularly elected to Council in 2013. He faces a primary challenge from Steven Jones, a relatively unknown political newcomer. Austin has received an endorsement from the Victory Fund. Two other openly gay candidates are also running for Council, bringing the number of LGBT candidates to a record high in Charlotte. Billy Maddalon, owner of the Van Landingham Estate in Plaza Midwood, is seeking a return to Council after his brief service there in 2013. He had been appointed to fill Patsy Kinsey’s District 1 seat; she had been appointed mayor following Anthony Foxx’s appointment as U.S. transportation secretary. Maddalon is seeking an at-large seat and was the number two fundraiser among Council candidates so far. Like Austin and Mayfield, Maddalon has received a Victory Fund endorsement.

Chris Turner rounds out Charlotte’s slate of openly gay candidates. A Democrat, she’s running against incumbent Republican Councilmember Ed Driggs in the heavily Republican-leaning District 7 in southwest Charlotte.

Other candidates statewide

An historic number of openly LGBT candidates are running for election or seeking re-election statewide and in South Carolina, including:

Chapel Hill: Mark Kleinschmidt, mayor; Lee Storrow, council member.

Charleston, S.C.: Ginny Deerin, mayor

Carrboro: Lydia Lavelle, mayor

Franklinton: Elic Senter, mayor

Greensboro: Brian Hoss, council member

Kleinschmidt faces two challengers and has received a Victory Fund endorsement. Lavelle faces no challengers in her re-election bid. Deerin, who also received a Victory Fund nod, is the top fundraiser in her Charleston race, raising $260,000 in the second quarter this year. If elected, Deerin, who is bisexual, would be the highest-ranking openly LGBT elected official in South Carolina and one of the most prominent openly bisexual officials in the nation, according to the Victory Fund. : :

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Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.