CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democrats had a lot to celebrate as returns came in last night on an Election Day that saw huge wins both locally and nationwide.
Charlotte mayoral race
In Charlotte, Vi Lyles beat out Republican challenger Kenny Smith, who massively outspent her and who appeared to have a decent shot at winning. The vote was so lopsided, however, that Lyles was already able to celebrate a win just two hours after polls closed.
It was a race that saw Smith, and his supporters, go negative, a point Lyles brought up in the debates. She has admitted that she considered going that route in retaliation.
“But I committed to a positive campaign. You have to be who you are,” she told The Charlotte Observer.
While Smith attempted to make himself look more like a moderate as the election approached, his anti-LGBTQ stance was clear when he confirmed that, if elected, he could use the mayoral veto power against another non-discrimination ordinance.
Lyles, unlike Smith, voted for the city’s expanded non-discrimination ordinance, both in 2015 and 2016, and has pledged to fight for LGBTQ rights.
Charlotte City Council
Democrats also cleaned up in the Charlotte City Council races, keeping a 9-2 advantage. It will look quite different, however, adding five newcomers, four of them Democrats and all of them under 40.
Larken Egleston, 34, will now represent District 1, having beat Patsy Kinsey in the primary; Matt Newton, 38, will represent District 5, defeating Darell Bonapart in a primary runoff; and Justin Harlow, 29, will represent District 2. All three are Democrats and newcomers.
Braxton Winston, 34, another Democrat and newcomer, grabbed an at-large seat, finishing second overall behind incumbent and Democrat Julie Eiselt, and ahead of James “Smuggie” Mitchell, another Democratic incumbent. Democrat Dimple Ajmera, 31, won the final at-large seat, finishing in fourth. She was appointed to a council seat earlier this year to replace John Autry.
Republican Tariq Scott Bokhari is another new face under 40 joining council, taking the seat vacated by Smith.
Democrat LaWana Mayfield and Republican Ed Driggs also won reelection.
Winston first came to the public’s attention through his activism both during and after the Keith Lamont Scott protests. Both he and Newton have called for changes to policing efforts, and the Citizen’s Review Board.
“Having healthy skepticism – there is nothing wrong with that,” said Eiselt, who chairs the public safety committee, overseeing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. “I think they will raise questions that we haven’t thought of, but as long as they are willing to understand the entire issue.”
Charlotte wasn’t the only city where progressives had cause to celebrate.
Democrats swept a number of races in what many are calling a rebuke of the Trump administration. Whether that is true or not, it is certainly the kind of night the party has been desperate for ever since he won the presidency.
Democrat Ralph Northam beat out his Trump-backed Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, to become Virginia’s next governor, in an election that got the biggest headlines.
Northam won by nine percentage points, in a race that was expected to be much closer.
Democrats in Virginia are also set to pick up at least 14 seats in the House of Delegates.
Elsewhere in North Carolina, Fayetteville’s Republican mayor, Nat Robertson, unexpectedly lost his bid for a third term, getting unseated by City Councilman Mitch Colvin.
Democrats also picked up three seats in the state legislature in Georgia.
Historic win for transgender candidate
In another huge win, Danica Roem became Virginia’s first transgender legislator.
Roem beat out incumbent, and self-described homophobe, Bob Marshall to join the Virginia House of Delegates.
Marshall routinely misgendered her throughout the campaign, and refused to debate her.
Roem had the perfect answer when asked how she felt about beating the opponent that showed her so little respect.
“Starting next year, Delegate Marshall will be one of my constituents, and I’m not going to attack my own constituents. I think if there’s any lesson that comes out of the race this year, it’s that attacking your constituents, singling them out, stigmatizing them, and trying to make people feel bad about themselves, that’s not our Virginia,” she said.
“A message of inclusion and equality resonated here, and for a national audience I think it’s really important to note that discrimination is a disqualifier,” she added.
You can watch that full interview below.