By Steve Harrison
Posted: Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011
The biggest surprise so far in Charlotte elections this year has been LaWana Mayfield, a community organizer who defeated incumbent Warren Turner in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary for District 3.
Turner has represented the west Charlotte district since 2003. But Mayfield, boosted by strong fundraising and volunteers, said her team knocked on 4,500 doors to pull off the upset. She won the primary with 51 percent of the vote.
Now Mayfield faces Republican Ed Toney in the November general election.
If Mayfield wins the general election, she will become the City Council’s first openly gay person to serve.
During her primary campaign, Mayfield said the city’s biggest challenge is economic growth.
“The reality is, until we grow jobs, people can’t spend money,” Mayfield said. “A business can’t grow, and there won’t be any development. It’s all tied together.”
Hometown: Born in Ruston, La. Moved to Charlotte in 1991.
Family: Has been with partner for five years, no children.
Education: Winston-Salem State University, certification in nonprofit work. Underwent training for Western States Center, a community organizing group.
Employment: Community organizer. Most recently worked for Grassroots Leadership, a Charlotte-based organization.
Political experience: No elected office. Served on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee.
Last Book Read: “Stuff White People Like.” Explains Mayfield: “It’s a comedy, a satire.”
She said she would have conversations with businesses. In addition, she would look at empty properties in District 3 and encourage that they to be retrofitted for new uses.
Mayfield said it’s important that the city “have more transparency on the front end.”
She said that if that happened, voters would have more reason to support initiatives on the “back end.”
“Now that I’m on the campaign trail, I realize that things are more complicated than we the citizens know,” Mayfield said. “Initially the community said we didn’t want the arena. But years later, that was one of the selling points for the (Democratic National Convention).
In the primary, Mayfield raised more than $31,000, a large amount for a challenger in a district primary election.
Of the $9,500 Mayfield raised since August, 60 percent came from out-of-state donors. Mayfield spent nearly $18,000 on mailers through the Campaign Workshop, a Washington D.C.-based company that often advises gay clients.
One issue that’s been simmering is whether the city should offer benefits to same-sex couples.
Mayfield said that should be explored, and that “those are real conversations that we need to have.”
She did, however, say that the city must look at the financial impact.