[The general election is just days away and early voting ends on Saturday. If you missed our earlier voting guide, with important dates, links to local/state endorsements and common questions, check it out here. Today, we’re highlighting local races in Mecklenburg County, where members of the County Commission are on the ballot.]
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An anti-LGBT candidate is seeking a return to the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, bringing his past anti-gay advocacy and outspoken prejudices back into the spotlight.
Republican Jim Puckett is seeking the District 1 seat on County Commission and aiming to replace the equally as anti-gay incumbent Karen Bentley, who decided last year not to run for a fifth term and encouraged Puckett to run instead.
Democrat Leonard Richardson, who has been endorsed by the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee, is running against Puckett.
Bentley and Puckett are cut from largely the same mold.
Puckett served in Bentley’s District 1 seat from 2000-2006. And, like Puckett before her, Bentley has never been a friend to the LGBT community, voting against measures like domestic partner benefits and employment protections.
In 2004, Puckett voted with other Republican county commissioners, then in the majority, to pass a resolution supporting the late state Sen. James Forrester’s attempts to pass a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Forrester was ultimately successful when legislators passed a similar measure in 2011 and voters approved the amendment in May 2012.
Puckett also opposed Mecklenburg County’s adoption of non-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation.
During debate on the motion, Puckett compared LGBT people to those with “sexual addictions, adulterers, bigamist[s], and sadomasochist[s],” and, in response to same-sex couples said, “I pray that they seek forgiveness for what I understand to be a sin and further pray they find solace for the burden they bear.”
Puckett also said the non-discrimination measure would lead to a decline in “family values.”
Puckett said Charlotte was already seen as “a relatively tolerant and accepting community,” and added: “But this proactive, gratuitous, embracing of an abnormal lifestyle will signify an enticement, a cognizant invitation to those seeking that lifestyle that runs counter to the religious and moral foundation this Bible Belt region of churches, synagogues and mosques has held out to families since the mid 1700’s.”
Puckett continued: “Admit it or not; By design or not; this is a government sanctioned signal to the homosexual advocates that we have abandoned the steadfast moral underpinnings of our community and we now embrace any deviancy that marches under a banner of simply seeking acceptance,” Puckett said.
After the non-discrimination measure passed, Puckett teamed up with another Republican commissioner during the 2006 campaign, saying they wanted to repeal the newly-passed protections and attacked former Commission Chair Parks Helms’ support for equality.
“Liberal County Commission Chair Parks Helms is out of control,” the ad’s narrator said, “raising taxes, wasting money and advocating gay marriage.”
Other races for County Commission
A total of five candidates are running for At-Large positions on the County Commission. MeckPAC has endorsed three Democrats: Pat Cotham, Trevor Fuller and Ella Scarborough.
Two Republicans, Scott Carlisle and Emily Zuyus, did not receive endorsements but have otherwise been generally supportive of LGBT issues.
In District 5, incumbent Republican Matthew Ridenhour is facing a challenge from Democrat Art Cardenas, who unsuccessfully sought to oust Councilmember Patsy Kinsey in a Democratic primary in 2013. Cardenas has garnered MeckPAC’s endorsement over Ridenhour, who voted against a measure last year extending county workplace protections on the basis of gender identity.
Uncontested races for County Commission
Several candidates face no opposition in their race, including District 2’s Vilma Leake (D), District 3’s George Dunlap (D), District 4’s Dumont Clarke (D) and District 6’s Bill James (R).
Leake and Dunlap have been been endorsed by MeckPAC. The LGBT group has issued a warning against voting for James, who has opposed several LGBT equality measures since his election in 1996.