Creative Loafing‘s Cheris Hodges profiles out candidate LaWana Mayfield, the city’s fourth openly gay or lesbian person to seek public office in Charlotte. Hodges poses the question, “Why don’t more openly gay candidates seek political office in Charlotte?”
From Hodges’ report, out in CL‘s July 5 print issue:
To be fair, part of the reason that no openly gay official has won a local political post is because so few actually run at all. Since the late 1990s, for example, only a handful of openly gay politicians have made runs for office in the Queen City, including: Owen Sutkowski, who ran for City Council in 2009; Chris Cole, who ran for City Council in 2001 and 2003; and Sue Henry, a write-in candidate for mayor in 1995.
So why don’t more openly gay candidates run? According to Richard Thomas, the chair of MeckPac — a non-partisan political action committee working for LGBT equality — gay candidates don’t seek office in Charlotte because of three major factors: fear, lack of experience and lack of funding.
“There’s not a lot of candidates, unfortunately, within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area that have typically run that were openly gay or known to be gay,” said Thomas. “A lot of that has to do with the stereotypes that are so pervasive in Charlotte. As progressive as Charlotte wants to be, there is this huge river of conservatism that runs right down the middle. What I find as politicians, even LGBT-friendly politicians that are looking to get into office or are currently in office, there is a lack of willingness to support or take lead for changes that would be beneficial to the LGBT community.”