One of the most high-profile LGBT allies running for election in the Charlotte area this season is Margie Storch. She’s hoping to unseat incumbent Republican state House Rep. Rob Bryan, who represents portions of South End, Dilworth and other neighborhoods further south in the city.
Storch has worked for House of Mercy for 11 years — her interest in the wellbeing of people living with AIDS was sparked by her gay brother’s experience with the disease in the 1990s. She’s a longtime community advocate, progressive activist and non-profit staffer.
Storch’s campaign was a last-minute decision she says, though voters and supporters have pulled through.
Our short Q&A with Storch is below. It has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Matt Comer: You’ve long been an ally to the LGBT community and have worked for House of Mercy for 11 years now. Why have you been so supportive?
Margie Storch: I’ve been a long time National Organization for Women (NOW) member and lesbian and gay rights have always been an important part of my mission. I also have a gay brother who died of AIDS in my home in 1992. So, I was very aware as a young person the pain people feel from discrimination and was very aware of the problems my brother was experiencing. I have always been concerned about equality issues and social justice. That is just a natural part of what I support.
What was it that first interested you in progressive and social justice movements?
I grew up during the Vietnam War and remember watching a lot of the war coverage on TV and just thinking there’s got to be a better way to solve our problems. My mother was an early NOW member and she had a lot of feminist books in the house which I read including, “The Feminine Mystique.” I grew up, actually, in a very conservative, white Protestant town, so I was actually in the minority with my thinking. It just felt right to me. I’ve always felt like I’ve wanted to pull for the underdog and to make sure that things are fair so that everyone has an equal shot.
After all your civic involvement, why make the jump into politics and elected office?
I’ve been involved in the Moral Monday marches in Raleigh and the gatherings in Charlotte and there is something wrong when so many teachers and preachers are being arrested in the state legislature. When the deadline was approaching for the end of filing, I realized that nobody was challenging the incumbent, who has been voting very badly and I don’t think representing my district very well. I got on the phone and worked on recruiting. It ended up being me in the end and I thought I’ve been working in political campaigns for decades, I’m very interested in political issues and I know I can do a better job than my opponent. So, I decided to step up. The best way to change policy is to change the policymakers if they continue to make bad choices.
As you’ve traveled the district and talked to voters, what have you found to be common concerns?
Mostly, I hear concerns about what’s happening with the public education system and the fact we are losing so many teachers. Despite the fact there was a pay raise passed in the short session, we are still not even paying our teachers an average wage. We are 48 out of 50 states when it comes to per-pupil spending. People want to see increased investment in public education. Citizens have also expressed concerns about the Charlotte airport and what appeared to be a power grab with no consultation with stakeholders or citizens before that was pushed through. I hope to bring greater transparency and consulting stakeholders before pushing through legislation to make sure that we’ve got citizens agreeing that this is something good to do. I think also I’m concerned and I’ve heard citizens express concern about the very strict voting laws that have been passed.
How do you foresee yourself working across the aisle and in tandem with a majority party that is of the opposing view?
As a legislator you really do need to compromise. I think the first thing I need to do is to build relationships and to really talk, not only to Democrats, but to Republicans and try to understand what it is that is motivating them and what is important to them. Sometimes we agree on the end result, but there might be a better way to get there. It is also important that we do elect some Democrats — enough to bring the supermajority down. They have absolute power now. Even if the governor vetoes bad legislation. There are not enough people in the legislature to override that power. If we can elect enough Democrats we can break the supermajority. It does make a difference what happens in this election. : :