Candidates Clay Aiken, left, and Marcus Brandon, center, will vie today for two congressional seats. State Senate candidate Ty Turner, right, faces a primary ballot with four other candidates. (Photos: Aiken, campaign photo; Brandon, David Lari/QNotes; Turner, QNotes)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Voters across North Carolina head to the polls today in several local and statewide primary elections. At least one could determine the future of LGBT inclusion in state lawmaking.

Polls opened today at 6:30 a.m. and will remain open until 7:30 p.m.

On the ballot statewide is a much-anticipated Republican primary for U.S. Senate, where leading candidate and current state House Speaker Thom Tillis is hoping to stave off a July 15 run-off election with libertarian challenger Greg Brannon and pastor-turned-politician Mark Harris, pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church and a former president of the North Carolina Baptist Convention.

Local races

In Mecklenburg County, Democratic primary voters will choose from a slate of five at-large county commission candidates. Only three can advance to the general election.

Also on the ballot is the the best and perhaps only chance to ensure LGBT representation in the North Carolina General Assembly. Voters in portions of East Charlotte and North Charlotte will cast their votes in the state Senate District 40 Democratic primary. Openly gay candidate Ty Turner is among a field of five candidates.

No Republican will run in the Senate District 40 general election this November.

If elected today, Turner would likely be the only openly gay member of the state legislature next term. If Turner fails to capture the primary, there will likely be, for the first time in a decade, no openly LGBT representation in the state General Assembly.

Only one other openly gay candidate is running for the state legislature. Openly gay state House District 40 candidate Derek Kiszely faces Kim Hanchette in their Democratic primary today. Republican Gary Pendleton is unopposed. The Wake County district leans Republican. Incumbent Rep. Jim Fulghum won 54 percent of the vote in 2012.

Congressional races

Two openly gay candidates will also vie for congressional seats today. Current state House Rep. Marcus Brandon (D-Guilford) is one of seven 12th Congressional District candidates hoping to fill former Rep. Mel Watt’s unexpired term and his full term starting next year.

Further east, Clay Aiken will face off with leading opponent Keith Crisco in their 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary. The winner will face incumbent Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers in November.

more info: Learn more about the primary elections today, your voter registration and more at ncvoterguide.org.

Matt Comer

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