Several of Charlotte’s local LGBTQ community organizations came together March 29 to present the Charlotte LGBT+ Community Candidate Fair, among them Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber, Charlotte Black Pride, Charlotte Pride, Equality NC, the Freedom Center for Social Justice, LGBT Democrats of Mecklenburg County, Log Cabin Republicans of NC, and the city’s leading voice in LGBTQ media, Qnotes.
Over 50 candidates running for local, state and federal offices attended the event, including candidates running for Charlotte City Council, Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, judicial races, General Assembly races, and candidates for the 12th and 14th Congressional Districts.
Of particular importance for Charlotte’s LGBTQ community — five candidates we call our own who are running for the Charlotte City Council. Here’s a closer look — in alphabetical order — at each of them, as they share pieces of their lives in the city, their desires for the community in the future and why we should vote for them.
Candidate: Danté Anderson
Charlotte City Council, District 1
Party Affiliation: Democratic
Danté Anderson grew up in Charlotte, seeing firsthand the issues that have accompanied the city’s rapid growth. She was raised in Southside Homes, a public housing community along South Tryon and Remount Road. The neighborhood has been plagued by violence recently, including a shooting last month involving two teen victims.
“I grew up in a zip code that was meant to tether my economic outcome,” says Anderson. “I’m one of those statistic defiers who was able to shift my outlook. Economic mobility should be a birthright of every Charlottean.”
She also remembers spending countless Saturdays at Queens Park playing video games and watching movies and today is an avid traveler, having visited over 50 countries around the globe. Anderson says that while she sees herself as a global citizen, she loves her home in the Queen City – the food, the culture, the city’s passion for sports and its diversity. Furthermore, Anderson believes her experiences growing up in District 1 are a strength that she would bring to Council. “The next few years are crucial to how the city will take shape over the next 10 years,” she continues. “I want to ensure we can look back and say our leadership got it right.”
For the city’s LGBTQ residents, Anderson wants to be a voice and advocate – “a fighter for the community,” noting the need to better understand why violence toward Black trans women is spiking. According to the Human Rights Campaign, Charlotte has the second highest rates of anti-trans violence and murder, especially against Black trans women. “We need to ensure that the community has protections,” states Anderson.
Ensuring equitable access for Charlotte’s Black neighborhoods that includes affordable housing, reliable public transportation, greenways and economic opportunity is also important to Anderson. “I’m positive that Charlotte can meet the challenge and want to help usher the city through continued success while keeping its soul and charm intact.”
Candidate: Kendrick Cunningham
Charlotte City Council, District 2
Party Affiliation: Democratic
Twenty-five-year-old Kendrick Cunningham is likely the youngest candidate running for Charlotte City Council. He hopes to be elected to represent District 2. A lifelong resident, he was born at Charlotte CMC Main.
Although Cunningham is a member of the Democratic Party, he’s enthusiastic about reaching across party lines and speaks highly of his interactions with Yvonne Holly and Tom Tillis, both Republicans. “It’s insightful to discuss voting rights, and fighting for fair elections in the state with them,” he says.
Cunningham’s interest in politics began when he was in elementary school. “I went to a predominantly white elementary school,” he recalls. “Then in middle school, I was transferred to Bishop Spaugh School.” It was here that Cunningham witnessed the inequities between schools with predominantly white populations and affluence, as opposed to schools that were substantially less affluent and populated by greater numbers of students of color. Barack Obama mounted his campaign for president at that time, as well. All of those elements came together, leaving the young Cunningham with a passion for changing the inequalities in society through political efforts.
Despite his youth and fresh perspective, he isn’t unaware of the past and how it impacts life today. “The cost of real estate in this city,” he says, ” is a big concern. And I am super concerned about the small mom and pop businesses and the smalerl property landlords who are having to increase rental payments beyond affordability, or even sell property to big companies just to keep the bills paid.”
Regardless of the problems the city faces, Cunningham sees a positive side in Charlotte’s growth, as well. “There is a lot of social Pride among the native residents. They have come to love the city during this International phase. To witness how the city has grown and evolved — a lot of that is indeed something to be proud of.”
Cunningham is excited about representing all of his constituency, although he has a strong commitment to the LGBTQ community. While he has said he identifies as non-binary, he feels he generally passes as straight in the general public. In conversations with friends across the LGBTQ spectrum, he has became aware he has not experienced some of the harassment and discrimination others have. “I want to create a stronger sense of belonging for LGBT people. I don’t want them to be afraid or experience any discomfort. Everyone should be able to enjoy their lives as who they are.”
Candidate: Kyle Luebke
Charlotte City Council, At-Large
Party Affiliation: Republican
Kyle Luebke says that Charlotte is the type of city where you get what you put into it. From working with LGBTQ nonprofits like The Plus Collective where he previously served as vice chair to working with neighborhoods on zoning and traffic safety, Luebke, a financial services attorney, says that “people here actually care about the city and they want to lift up anyone who is interested in walking with them on a journey to better Charlotte.”
Luebke moved to Charlotte in 2018 from the Twin Cities. He and his fiancé, Bryan Segers, live in Beverly Woods with their dog Asher, a 90-pound chocolate lab. He got involved in city politics because he sees the need for more diverse voices on City Council. “Local politics is where you can give a voice to people in our community,” says Luebke. A local transit user, he takes that opportunity to speak with other riders about the issues they face. “When national and state politics seem bleak, you can make real change if you engage in the process.”
For the LGBTQ community, Luebke notes his work on the Republican draft of Charlotte’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance. “In the end, we were the first city in North Carolina to pass our NDO on a unanimous bipartisan basis, with Councilmember Bokhari specifically fighting to make it a stronger proposal.” If elected, he hopes to find a solution to the political logjam surrounding statewide protections and push for a ban on conversion therapy. As a gay Republican, Luebke believes he can challenge his party. “I think that I have a unique perspective, and I would do exactly what I did here in Charlotte – show our partners in the General Assembly how LGBTQ+ protections are good for business as well as reflect conservative values.”
Luebke also wants to improve Charlotte’s transportation system through increased headways, rapid transit bus routes and expansion of CATS’ Special Transportation Services program, and in line with other candidates, sees affordable housing as a problem that the city must continue to address. For him, that means incentivizing building homes to own, not rent, and preventing residents from being taxed out through rising property taxes.
Candidate: Billy Maddalon
Charlotte City Councilt, District 1
Party Affiliation: Democratic
At 55, Billy Maddalon has had plenty of time to make connections, get to know people, have some amazing experiences and step up to the bar for a second opportunity to sit on the Charlotte City Council.
A native of Charlotte, aside from his college years at North Carolina State University and two years that followed while he worked as a speech writer and staff assistant at the North Carolina legislature, he’s been a lifelong resident of the city.
In 2013 he became the first openly gay man appointed to serve on Charlotte’s City council when then Mayor Anthony Foxx was appointed to be Transportation Secretary by former President Barack Obama. Patsy Kinsey became mayor for the remainder of his term. That left her seat on City Council open. Encouraged by multiple council members, he accepted the nomination and was voted into the seat by the Charlotte City Council.
Maddalon brought with him a diverse background of knowledge in business and finance.
For years he was known as the owner of the Van Landingham Estate. He also owned and operated the Morehead Inn (he sold the former and continues to own and operate the latter). Both have served as upscale lodging and special event facilities for visitors to the city, as well as residents. For the LGBTQ community the facilities have hosted a number of destination events over the past few decades..
As for his decision to run for the District 1 City Council seat, he had this to say: “The kids are grown, and I sold the estate. I have the time and the energy I didn’t have before. After being around for a while, I kind of know more than some other people do. I know the players, and I might just be a damn good city council person. There’s some persistent issues I want to have an impact on and I think I could be the person for the job.”
While Maddalon acknowledges there are some problems in the city, especially with affordable housing, he admits that solving the issue is complicated and not particularly different from other citie of the same sizes throughout the country.
“This is an issue that has to be addressed,” he says. “There are real lives at stake here. Our police, our teachers, our fire fighters. The very people who are here to protect the city and to make it a better place can’t afford to live here.”
On his list of plans should he be elected, he hopes to extend the NDO to encompass affordable housing and livability for the LGBTQ community.
For the community of color, Maddalon insists that equity must be demanded, a part of strategic planning, and included during budgeting with a special emphasis for the community of color.
For the entire city, he looks to the future: “I want to make a long-term difference. Let’s say I serve eight years. When that comes to a close, people might say they’re not sure what I did or how I accomplished the things I hope to do. It’s like planting trees. I might not eat any fruit from that tree, but I want to invest in the future so that it will bear fruit for generations to come.”
Candidate: LaWanna Mayfield
Charlotte City Council, At-Large
Party Affiliation: Democratic
If the name Lawana Mayfield sounds familiar to you, it should. The Democratic party member served as a member of the Charlotte City Council previously, representing District 3, serving two terms from 2011 to 2019. On top of that. she’s the first elected LGBTQ community member elected to the council. A native of Miami, a visit to the city in 1988 left her in love with Charlotte and ready to make a fast move to the Queen City.
When asked what originally prompted her to get involved with city politics, she quickly points to local attorney Connie Vetter, a long time activist in the LGBTQ community.
Vetter’s impact, Mayfield’s experiences volunteering with the Human Rights Campaign and her work with Meckpac prompted her to run for her first term on City Council.
It’s been over three years since she last served on the city council. After the time off and the freedom it allowed, it begs the question, why toss your hat back in the ring?
“I’ve never stopped loving my city,” says Mayfield. “And I never stopped doing the work I did before as a city councilwoman. Despite the time that has passed, I still have people reaching out to me — multiple people, different ethnicities and different walks of life — have asked me to do it again. As an at-large candidate, I will be able to reach out to and work with the entire city much easier than I was able to before.”
Mayfield makes her home in Southwest Charlotte, where she is married to IT Support Specialist Gelisa Stitt. “We were married September 24, 2016,” Mayfield announces delightedly. “We’ve been together for 15 years now.”
If Mayfield is re-elected, she has lots of plans for the city that will impact all of us in a very positive way.
“I’d like the NDO to become a full inclusion ordinance,” she says, in reference to the LGBTQ community. “I’d also like to see the CMPD do a better job with the LGBTQ community. Let’s have a paid liaison who works with the city and the LGBTQ community directly.” For people of color Mayfield would like to see easier access to housing affordability, better support of community arts, and genuine financial support of true small businesses. For the city as a whole, she hopes to see it continue to thrive. “There should be access to a greater quality of life for everyone, we should all be able to gain wealth and we should all be happy and comfortable in the city that we call home.”