Races to watch: Asheville, Charlotte, Durham
For most voters heading to the polls for tomorrow’s municipal elections, LGBT issues aren’t on the forefront of their minds. Social and Civil Rights issues have taken a backseat in this season’s off-year elections as matters of the economy, healthcare, crime and local development lead candidates’ and citizens’ agendas.
Regardless, several progressive candidates across North Carolina have spoken out about LGBT issues, including marriage, employment non-discrimination and domestic partner benefits. Despite the small role such issues will likely play in deciding who takes office, the lucky winners in each race will have a profound effect on how local policies and ordinances will treat LGBT citizens for years to come.
Progressive candidates in Asheville, Charlotte and Durham are among those Q-Notes staff are watching closely:
Progressive citizen journalist/party activist-turned-local politican Gordon Smith will face off with several other candidates in his at-large race for the Asheville City Council. In October’s primary, Smith garnered 19 percent of the vote among a field of 10 candidates.
Smith has been actively supportive of the Asheville LGBT community. In July, he indicated his support for domestic partner benefits for city employees.
“The gay and lesbian citizens of Asheville deserve equal recognition and equal benefits,” Smith wrote. “To deny these benefits is to relegate gay and lesbian couples to second-class status. We all know that Asheville is a gay-friendly city, and our city government ought to reflect our commitment to honoring the civil rights of all our citizens.”
One of Smith’s opponents, incumbent Carl Mumpower, has been less enthusiastic about LGBT equality. In the past, Mumpower has made statements many considered anti-gay.
For the first time in 14 years, Charlotte will have a new mayor. Voters will decide between Democrat Anthony Foxx and Republican John Lassiter. Both are currently serving on the Charlotte City Council.
Although both Foxx and Lassiter were present for a candidates’ reception hosted by MeckPAC, a local LGBT political action committee, only one received their endorsement. Foxx, MeckPAC’s endorsed mayoral candidate, has been consistently favorable on LGBT issues. Lassiter failed to return the organization’s questionnaire earlier this year.
Other MeckPAC endorsements can be viewed on the organization’s website at www.meckpac.org.
Young progressive Donald Hughes, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, will face off against LGBT-friendly Durham City Council incumbent Cora Cole-MecFadden. Hughes garnered nearly18 percent of the vote in his October primary race against Cole-McFadden, who captured 69 percent
Hughes had come under fire from activists in Durham after he seemingly switched his position on marriage equality for same-sex couples.
According to activist Joshua Lee Weaver, Hughes had indicated his full support of a Durham City Council resolution on marriage equality. But at a Young Democrats forum days later, Hughes said “the law as it currently stands is the one we should abide by” until state leaders change it.
Hughes later clarified his remarks and said said the issue of marriage was outside of the authority of the city council. He reiterated his support for LGBT equality.
“I have and will continue to articulate my opposition to changing the NC State Constitution (NC Defense of Marriage Act) to deny any citizens their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he wrote on a local blog and told Q-Notes.
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