Election 2014: Aiken wins primary, no LGBT representation for state

Aiken primary opponent dies days before final tally

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Reaction to legislative races: This version of this story is printed in the May 23-June 5, 2014, print edition. Visit the original, extended May 6 online version of this story at goqnotes.com/29167/ for reaction from LGBT leaders on the impending lack of representation in the state legislature.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Primary elections across the state on May 6 yielded mixed results for LGBT North Carolinians.

Elections officials named former “American Idol” contestant Clay Aiken the winner of his Democratic 2nd Congressional District primary.

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Aiken’s race had been tight, with him leading at 40.8 percent of the vote, barely enough to avoid a run off. In an unexpected turn of events, Crisco tragically passed away on May 12, though the incident had no bearing on official election results released afterward.

Meanwhile, three other openly gay candidates vying for office across the state lost in their respective primaries on May 6. Two of them had fought to gain entry to the North Carolina General Assembly. With their loss, North Carolina’s LGBT community will be without representation in the state legislature.

Gay state candidates skipped over

Come next January — for the first time in a decade — no openly LGBT person will be counted among the legislature’s 170 members. The state’s only openly gay member currently, House Rep. Marcus Brandon, isn’t running for reelection.

In Mecklenburg County, openly gay candidate Ty Turner lost his Democratic primary for state Senate District 40. Facing a crowded primary with four other candidates, Turner came in last and carried just six percent of the vote with 36 of 48 precincts reporting, according to unofficial results published online by the North Carolina State Board of Elections. The board had experienced computer and reporting glitches earlier in the evening.

The top vote-getter in Turner’s race, Joyce Waddell, received 43 percent of the vote and will be unopposed in November, guaranteeing her a seat when the North Carolina Senate’s next term convenes in January.

At an election watch party in Uptown Charlotte, Turner said he was disappointed in the results, calling it a “tough loss,” but nonetheless heartened by his experience during the campaign.

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“I’ve taken five months of my life to really focus on the people,” Turner said. “This is just the beginning. Now it’s up to me to build on that and gain the people’s trust. I’m not going to stop. I’m not going to be one of those individuals who runs for office and disappears.”

In Wake County, openly gay candidate Derek Kiszely garnered only 23 percent of the vote in his Democratic primary for state House District 49, with nearly all precincts reporting. Kiszely’s opponent, Kim Hanchette, carried 77 percent of the vote. She will face Republican Gary Pendleton, who had no Republican opponent in the primary, in the general election this November.

Turner’s loss means the state’s estimated 244,000 LGBT citizens won’t have any openly LGBT representation in the North Carolina General Assembly. Even if Kiszley had won his Wake County primary, that district leans Republican with a potential Kiszely general election victory nearly impossible. But, with no November opponent, a Turner primary victory would have guaranteed his seat in the state Senate.

A third option to guarantee LGBT representation had recently come into the hands of local Democratic Party leaders in Mecklenburg County. On May 3, 49 members of the county party’s executive committee met to fill a vacant state Senate seat left open when former Sen. Dan Clodfelter stepped down to become Charlotte’s mayor. Twenty-five of those voters chose Gaston County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Jackson, with openly gay Plaza Midwood businessman Billy Maddalon receiving 21 votes.

Brandon stumbles

Current state House Rep. Marcus Brandon was among several candidates in the 12th Congressional District primary. Additionally, he was vying in a special election to fulfill former Rep. Mel Watt’s unexpired term for the rest of this year.

Brandon carried just eight percent of the special election vote and seven percent of the main primary. Top-vote getter, Greensboro’s Alma Adams, was registering at about 43 percent in both. Adams will soon be seated in Congress to fulfill former Rep. Mel Watt’s unexpired term. She’ll face Republican challenger Vince Coakley in November, though the heavily Democratic-leaning district will likely favor Adams. : :

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.