Ty Turner, left, files to run for office on Feb. 25 at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections with his mother, Sonia Graddick, and brother, Stephen Graddick.
Ty Turner, left, files to run for office on Feb. 25 at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections with his mother, Sonia Graddick, and brother, Stephen Graddick.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina’s May 6 Democratic primaries will decide the fate of an openly gay candidate vying to represent a portion of the Queen City and Mecklenburg County in Raleigh.

Ty Turner is among a field of five Democrats vying for the North Carolina Senate District 40 seat. The race has no Republican candidate, so the primary will ultimately decide the victor.

Turner, 33, was born in Kentucky, but has lived in Charlotte and elsewhere in the state since the age of four. And, he says its time for new leadership to step up.

“When it comes to Mecklenburg County, there’s not been a new crop of leadership since the 1990s,” he told qnotes. “We haven’t seen a new crop of leaders who can think outside of the box.”

Election after election, he said, candidates “recycle themselves over and over again.”

“They come to people and ask for their vote. Then they go to Raleigh and disappear and two years later come back and ask for your vote again,” he said.

Turner wants to change that and he believes he’s the best candidate for the job.

“I think outside of the box and I have a positive mentality,” Turner said. “I’m not a part of any special interest groups. I’m fresh, new leadership and not afraid to say what I’ve got to say.”

Turner may very well be new, but he’s not inexperienced.

After graduating from Charlotte’s Olympic High School, he attended Greensboro’s North Carolina A&T University, where he worked as a campus police officer through college and became the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. He left law enforcement two years after graduation and moved on to teach history at Jamestown Middle School, right outside of Greensboro.

From 2008 onward, Turner became involved working with a variety of health organizations, including serving as the health center manager at Charlotte’s Planned Parenthood office on Albemarle Rd.

Most recently, he’s worked as an outside business consultant with mental and behavioral health offices. It’s that background which informs Turner’s calls for better priorities in the state budget.

“I’ve seen how mental and behavioral health services were being depleted,” he said. “Anytime you have a financial crisis, social services programs are cut. Anytime they are cut, you see higher crime. These are mental health issues and they usually affect low-income areas.”

Jobs, economic security and health are all connected, Turner said. Women, for example, carry a huge burden. He’s seen women with no jobs struggle to access affordable services like annual check-ups or low-cost birth control. Republican lawmakers, Turner said, have made matters worse, pushing through legislation that further restricts health agencies and clinics which offer reproductive health and abortion-related services.

“I’m a pro-choice candidate,” Turner made clear. “As a male, I shouldn’t make decisions on what a female does.”

The GOP’s overreach extends from women’s health into other communities, too, Turner said. Amendment One, the state’s anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment, was just another example.

“I’m starting to see Republicans take the role of ‘the haves’ and they don’t want ‘the have nots’ to have anything,” he said.

If elected, Turner said he’ll give voice to those some lawmakers seem to have forgotten.

“My platform is calling for inclusion itself,” he said. “I know what it feels like to be on the ground floor. Look at all the disadvantages I was able to work myself out of.”

Turner added, “If you’re an honest man and you have hard work and dedication, at the end of the day you can come up against struggle, meet it face to face and no one else can stop you.”

Turner’s familiarity with facing and overcoming struggle will come in handy next month. When voters head into the primary election booth, they’ll be faced with choosing between Turner and four other candidates for the District 40 seat.

Politicians with whom voters may have some familiarity — former Charlotte City Councilmember Nasif Majeed and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education member Joyce Waddell — are running for the seat. So are two former campaigners who are vying for elected office for the second time in recent years. Morris McAdoo, a former Forsyth County prosecutor, ran against a Republican opponent for state House District 64 in Alamance County in 2012. Lawyer Matt Newton ran in the 2012 Democratic primary against former Congressman Mel Watt.

Senate District 40 represents portions of both East Charlotte and North Charlotte. The district wraps around neighborhoods like Windsor Park, Country Club Heights and NoDa and extends from Independence Blvd. northward toward University City and back southward through Tryon Hills and into the Belmont neighborhood. : :

more: Follow more Election 2014 coverage online at qnotescarolinas.com/in/election-2014/.

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