CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Local off-year elections this season and the upcoming mid-term elections in 2014 will include several historic runs by openly gay and lesbian candidates across the state.
Two races, in particular, may very well yield historic results. Situated next to Chapel Hill, Carrboro could elect the state’s first openly lesbian mayor. Current Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle announced her candidacy for mayor in April. She’s served on the town’s board of alderman since first elected in 2007.
“A lot of folks in the community mentioned to me they’d like to see me run,” Lavelle told qnotes. “I decided to go ahead and make the announcement I was going to run for mayor.”
Lavelle said several local issues are at the forefront of her concern, including regional services like recycling and waste which require partnership and communication with Chapel Hill and Orange County. Lavelle is also excited about the potential growth for downtown Carrboro.
“We have our first hotel opening in downtown Carrboro,” she said. “We’re trying to really put an emphasis on bringing activity and events to downtown and encourage not just residents, but also visitors to come and spend some time in our town, come to our festivals and eat in our restaurants.”
If elected, Lavelle thinks Carrboro and the rest of the Triangle — long-known for its friendliness to LGBT citizens and elected officials — can send a broader message.
“I would think if I’m fortunate enough to be elected mayor, it would really serve as a signal certainly to the rest of the state and if not to this part of the country that our collective community really values diversity and doesn’t really think [people’s sexual orientation] matters at all when we look at who our elected officials should be.”
Lavelle’s run this year isn’t the only historic candidacy the state will see. State Rep. Marcus Brandon (D-Guilford), North Carolina’s only openly gay, incumbent lawmaker, announced this month that he would be seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination in the 12th Congressional District.
Brandon is the first openly gay or lesbian North Carolinian in a major political party to announce his candidacy for the U.S. House.
“We have the same problem in D.C. as we have in North Carolina,” Brandon told qnotes. “The needs of the communities we represent, especially through the 12th District, are just too great. What we need is someone who has proven is able to work across the aisle and be effective. I’m the one who is proven to be able to do that most effectively.”
Brandon was first elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 2010. He’s been an advocate for charter schools and education reform, as well as an outspoken advocate for ex-offenders.
“When I knocked on doors, those are the two things I noticed the most…about 70 percent of the people in the community where I live do not have high school diplomas and are ex-felons,” Brandon said. “They have zero-percent chance of getting a job. They end up creating a system of their own because they can’t get a job.”
That system, Brandon said, breeds drug addiction, prostitution and crime.
“The system does not work for them and they create their own system,” he said. “This is the reason why I deal with education reform and I deal with second-chance opportunities. I have to get these people to work. These are the biggest issues facing this community.”
Brandon said he doesn’t believe his sexual orientation will play any role in his campaign. His re-election to the state House in 2012, he said, was proof that people care more about the issues affecting their daily lives than about hot-button social issues.
In 2011, Brandon came to the center of debate when state lawmakers considered and later approved an anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment. The measure won approval from voters 61-39 percent on May 8, 2012.
The 12th Congressional District snakes its way from Winston-Salem and Greensboro, through Salisbury and Concord and into Charlotte. The seat has been held by Rep. Mel Watt since 1993. On May 1, Watt was nominated by President Barack Obama to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency. : :
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