[Ed. Note: This story has been revised to clarify endorsement categories for each of the coalition members.]
Three LGBT rights organizations have joined forces under the “TurnOUT Charlotte!” banner to encourage registered voters to vote in upcoming primaries for mayor and City Council. It has also issued a list of the coalition’s top picks in the races.
Coalition members include the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee (MeckPAC), Equality NC (ENC) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
TurnOUT Charlotte! issued endorsements for City Council only. In addition to City Council, MeckPAC and ENC also separately issued endorsements for mayor.
The primaries are scheduled for Sept. 15.
Registered voters can vote early — now through Sept. 12 — or on election day.
Only voters who registered before the Aug. 21 registration deadline can vote in the primaries.
Voters can still register to participate in the general elections Nov. 3.
Each of the three organizations has issued a press release on the “TurnOUT Charlotte!” campaign.
“MeckPAC has joined forces with Equality North Carolina and the HRC in an unprecedented coalition in Charlotte to get our combined members and supporters to turn out at the polls,” MeckPAC writes.
To come up with its top picks, MeckPAC adds, coalition members evaluated candidates on their responses to questionnaires, in-person interviews and past performance on issues related to LGBT equality.
According to HRC, Charlotte is one of the largest cities in the U.S. without explicit anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people.
HRC’s press release revisits Charlotte City Council’s decision in March to reject draft updates to existing ordinances that would have protected LGBT rights with regard to public accommodations, commercial contracting and passenger vehicles for hire.
The draft updates failed to pass in a 7-4 vote.
“Adding more pro-equality voices to the Charlotte City Council may now be our best chance to pass a fully inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance,” HRC writes.
ENC’s press release echoes HRC’s sentiments.
“Local elections are vital,” ENC writes. “Non-discrimination policies can be made or broken by city councils or county commissions and mayors can provide necessary leadership to ensure that LGBT people are welcomed in their towns and cities.”
ENC has posted to its website brief profiles of the candidates that “TurnOUT Charlotte!” coalition partners are endorsing.
Each registered voter can vote for one candidate for mayor, up to four candidates for at-large seats on City Council and one candidate for each district seat on City Council. The endorsed candidates are:
Daniel Clodfelter is mayor of Charlotte. He took the chair on City Council’s approval in April 2014, following the resignation of then-Mayor Patrick Cannon. Clodfelter has served in the North Carolina State Senate (1999-2014) and as District 1 representative on Charlotte City Council (1987-1993). He has also served as chairman of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission. Clodfelter is a graduate of Davidson College, Oxford University and Yale Law School.
Jennifer Roberts was raised in Charlotte. After earning graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Toronto, Roberts worked for the U.S. State Department as a consular officer in the Dominican Republic and as a political officer on the Mexico Desk. Since her return to Charlotte, she has been director of the Mayor’s International Cabinet, a lending officer in international corporate banking at First Union and executive director of the Charlotte World Affairs Council.
City Council (At-Large)
Julie Eiselt has served on various education and public safety boards since arriving in Charlotte in 1998. Her background is in commercial and investment banking, working in emerging countries and utilizing her proficiency in Spanish, French and Portuguese. “Living in a foreign country, you learn what it feels like to be on the outside looking in,” she noted. “That certainly helped me understand the cross-cultural and economic disenfranchisement that many groups in our community face.”
Vi Lyles currently holds an at-large seat on Charlotte City Council. She has also served as Charlotte’s assistant city manager and was director of community outreach for the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Lyles would like to see Charlotte develop into a community where all citizens, individually and collectively, continue to work for a better place for those who will follow. Her mission is to create opportunities for engagement and collaboration to improve the quality of life in Charlotte.
Billy Maddalon has been active in community organizations, serving on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Charlotte Convention and Visitors Bureau (1999-2004) and the Board of Directors of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority and chair of its Strategic Planning Committee (2004-2005). He was the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce 1998 Entrepreneur of the Year and one of the Charlotte Business Journal’s “40 under 40” most influential persons in Charlotte. Maddalon, the only openly gay candidate in the race, said during an LGBT community candidates forum on Aug. 11 that City Council’s failure to approve the draft updates to ordinances in March proved “uniquely painful” and actually motivated him to run for City Council.
James Mitchell is a third-generation Charlottean. He served on Charlotte City Council for 14 years at one point and is a strong advocate for public-private partnerships. Mitchell championed the new Charlotte Inclusion program, which will increase competition in city contracting and procurement opportunities for Minority, Women and Small Business Enterprises. He was also instrumental in acquiring funding for upgrades to the Carolina Panthers stadium, securing funds for and relocating the new minor league Charlotte Knights’ BB&T baseball stadium and obtaining rezoning to build Northlake Mall.
City Council (District 2)
Al Austin currently represents District 2 on Charlotte City Council. He has worked as assistant director of public relations for the Charlotte Housing Authority, director of national public relations for the American Association of Minority Businesses and ground transportation supervisor for Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Austin also served as executive director of the McCrorey Family YMCA in the Northwest Corridor of Charlotte (2009-2012).
City Council (District 3)
LaWana Mayfield currently represents District 3 on Charlotte City Council. She was elected in 2011 and is serving her second term. Upon being elected, Mayfield became the second African-American female to be elected to City Council and the first openly LGBT elected official in the City of Charlotte.
City Council (District 5)
John Autry currently represents District 5 on Charlotte City Council. He grew up in Fayetteville and Concord. Upon completing high school, he moved to California to attend college and eventually joined the U.S. Navy. He served from 1972 to 1976 and received an honorable discharge. Autry joined his neighborhood association in challenging a rezoning petition in 1999, an experience that inspired him to become more involved in community affairs. He has also served on the Mecklenburg Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors. : :