Out lesbian LaWana Mayfield on track to take District 3 seat
LaWana Mayfield, right, speaks with members of her campaign following her primary victory against incumbent Democratic City Councilmember Warren Turner.
CHARLOTTE — Community organizer LaWana Mayfield sailed to victory Tuesday night in her Democratic primary against Charlotte City Council District 3 incumbent Warren Turner.
With all precincts reporting, Mayfield won 51 percent of the vote while Turner walked away with just 34 percent. A third Democratic candidate, Svend Deal, captured 15 percent.
“I had hoped the community wanted to see something different and that they would support me but, honestly, I was never arrogant enough to assume that I’d win,” Mayfield told qnotes at a post-primary election party in southwest Charlotte. “I’m confident our community is ready for a change and they are confident in the fact that I’ll get on council and fight for the community and that I mean what I say.”
Mayfield is the fourth openly gay or lesbian candidate to run for local office in Charlotte; she’s also the first ever to win any election — primary or general — in the Queen City. She now faces Republican Ed Toney in the general election on Nov. 8. If successful, Mayfield will become the first openly gay or lesbian person elected to local office in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
Despite the historic nature of her campaign, Mayfield and her campaign director, Billy Kluttz, said LGBT issues figured a relatively small concern in the minds of voters.
“Folks have been clear about what they care about is having someone who shows up and LaWana has done that over and over again and that’s how we’ve really differentiated her from the incumbent,” Kluttz said. “LaWana has come. We had a community debate where the incumbent didn’t even show up and LaWana was there.”
Kluttz said Mayfield will prove victorious in November. He also doesn’t think Mayfield’s sexual orientation will have much effect on voters’ decision.
“I’m very confident,” he said. “The partisan breakdown [in the district] is so much in our favor that [Mayfield's sexuality] is not an issue. We didn’t make it an issue in the primary because her focus has been on the community. It’s been on property values, economic growth and community safety. That’s the same message we’re going to carry into the general election. That’s what folks want and that’s what works.”
Incumbent Turner, first elected in 2003 and currently serving his fourth term, had come under fire last year after allegations surfaced implicating him in anti-gay and misogynistic sexual harassment. An independent investigation commissioned by city council found those allegations credible. Due to unrelated matters, Turner later lost his job as a probation officer with the North Carolina Department of Corrections.
Preceding the primary, local African-American community newspaper Charlotte Post endorsed Mayfield and indicated Turner’s actions had cost him credibility among constituents. Yet, Mayfield and Kluttz say they never focused on Turner and played down that effect on their victory Tuesday night.
“We ran a really hard, positive campaign with a lot of door-to-door and meeting the community,” Mayfield said.
“Our concern the whole time was about LaWana,” Kluttz said. “We didn’t focus on [Turner]. We didn’t run negative ads or a negative campaign. That’s not what people want. I do know they want a new leader and someone they trust and they trust LaWana.”
Mayfield’s primary victory on Tuesday followed passage the same day of an anti-LGBT constitutional amendment in the North Carolina Senate. It will appear on the ballot in May 2012. If passed by a majority of voters, it will ban recognition of marriage, civil unions and domestic partnership recognition for same-sex couples. If elected, Mayfield said she’s committed to raising awareness and helping to defeat the proposal.
“I think today showed that the community is very engaged with what is happening and I believe all of us are smart enough to know that any legislation that takes away rights is going to be bad for everyone,” she said. “The constitution was created to expand rights, not to take them away. We’re smart enough to realize that would not be a positive move for North Carolina. We’re going to show up in large numbers to say that we are a welcoming community and that we accept and embrace all diversity and that we just want people to live positive and healthy lives.”
The Charlotte primary included several races for city council, including at-large seats and some districts. Voter turnout was low, standing at just 2.59 percent, or 10,140, of the city’s total 391,553 registered voters. qnotes endorsed Mayfield in her primary bid against Turner.
more: Learn more about this year’s elections at our Charlotte Election Central 2011. We’ll soon update it more information about the Nov. 8 general election. Our general election endorsements will be released on Oct. 15.