CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Forty-nine members of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party cast their votes on Saturday to replace former state Sen. Dan Clodfelter, who is now serving as Charlotte mayor.
After two rounds of voting, 31-year-old Gaston County Assistant District Attorney and Army veteran Jeff Jackson won with 25 votes. Openly gay Plaza Midwood businessman and former Charlotte City Councilmember Billy Maddalon received 21 votes. Former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education member Amelia Stinson-Wesley received three votes. Eastside activist Darrell Bonapart had been eliminated in the first round of voting, when he received just one vote.
“I’m going to Raleigh for each of you and I want to hear from you,” Jackson told members of the party after the results were announced at Little Rock AME Zion Church in downtown Charlotte.
The replacement process had been initiated when Clodfelter was chosen by City Council to become Charlotte’s next mayor, following former Mayor Patrick Cannon’s resignation. Clodfelter was installed in April.
Forty-nine members of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party Executive Committee were eligible to vote for Clodfelter’s replacement; each live in Senate District 37.
Jackson told media after his election that he hoped to continue Clodfelter’s legacy of service.
“I’m honored to have been selected by my party to continue to serve my state,” Jackson said. “I’m very excited. This is going to be a wonderful opportunity to serve, hopefully, millions of people across our state who are really hurting right now. At the end of the day, this is about them. This is about the opportunity we have to continue as public servants to find ways to make people’s lives a little better.”
By selecting Jackson and passing over Maddalon, Mecklenburg County Democrats might very well have secured an uncertain future for LGBT citizens in the state. Only one other openly gay candidate, Senate District 40 candidate Ty Turner, is currently running for the legislature. Openly gay incumbent House Rep. Marcus Brandon (D-Guilford) is not running for reelection and Turner faces a crowded primary on Tuesday. If he’s not elected, the General Assembly will have no openly LGBT representation for the first time in a decade.
Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, said he was disappointed in the outcome of Saturday’s vote. His group, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, had endorsed Maddalon.
“He would have been a great senator and it was important for us to have an LGBT voice in the General Assembly,” Sgro said on Sunday.
But, Sgro also said he’s confident Jackson will be a strong ally.
“I think that Jeff Jackson definitely has the potential to make a good senator and I think, even more importantly, a strong LGBT ally in the General Assembly. I look forward to working with Sen. Jackson.”
At a candidate forum last week, Maddalon had said he was looking forward to being the first lawmaker to introduce legislation officially repealing the state’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment when it is struck down by federal courts. On Saturday, Jackson committed to doing the same.
“Amendment One is a travesty,” Jackson said. “I’m hopeful the courts wills strike it down.”
Jackson added, “In the meantime, we need to, as legislators, be mindful that gay people are our friends and neighbors. They are no different from the rest of us and they don’t deserve to be discriminated against. It’s unacceptable.”