Democrats and the LGBTQ community got much needed good news as results came back on Election Day, Nov. 7, with big wins in Charlotte, N.C. and beyond.
Vi Lyles becomes Charlotte’s first African-American female mayor
Democrat Vi Lyles won a decisive victory against Republican Kenny Smith, who outspent her but could not overcome his party’s two-to-one voter registration disadvantage in the city.
With this win, Lyles becomes the city’s first African-American female mayor. She will also be Charlotte’s seventh mayor in only nine years.
In addition to negative ads from the Smith campaign, she was also smeared by the NC Values Coalition for her stance in support of LGBTQ rights.
Lyles voted in favor of the LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance in 2015 and 2016 and has pledged to continue standing up for equality. Smith, on the other hand, said during the campaign that if elected he could use the mayoral veto power to put a stop to LGBTQ rights even after the moratorium put in place by HB142 expires in 2020.
She admits she was tempted to go low in retaliation against Smith, but stuck to her values and to the issues.
“I committed to a positive campaign,” she told The Charlotte Observer. “You have to be who you are.”
Charlotte City Council
Democrats maintained their 9-2 control of the Charlotte City Council, sweeping all four at-large seats. Five newcomers will join the council, four of them Democrats, and all of them under 40.
Larken Egleston, 34, will now represent District 1, Matt Newton, 38, will represent District 5, and Justin Harlow, 29, will represent District 2. All three are Democrats and newcomers.
Braxton Winston, 34, another Democrat and newcomer, won 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, who was appointed earlier this year to replace John Autry, won the final at-large seat.
Republican Tariq Scott Bokhari is another new face under 40 joining council. He will be taking the seat vacated by Smith.
Democrat LaWana Mayfield and Republican Ed Driggs also won their re-election bids.
Winston has grabbed considerable attention for his victory, having gained attention and headlines as one of the main activists during the Keith Lamont Scott protests, often referred to as the Charlotte Uprising.
Chelsea Clinton used her first 280 character tweet to shout him out.
“Mr. President, @BraxtonWinston is a superb example of an actual ‘very fine’ person,” she tweeted. “And, yes I know he won an election in Charlotte, not Charlottesville. Still, please learn more about him @realDonaldTrump @potus.”
Rapper and actor Common also noted Winston’s win, calling it inspiring.
School board and bond
The school board, technically apolitical, will maintain the same makeup of six Democrats and two Republicans.
Rhonda Lennon won reelection in District 1, Thelma Byers-Bailey in District 2 and Ruby Jones in District 3. Newcomers Carol Sawyer, Margaret Marshall and Sean Strain were elected to represent districts 4, 5 and 6, respectively. Sawyer and Marshall were both endorsed by Equality North Carolina.
Voters also approved the school bond. Over 70 percent of voters supported the $922 million bond package that will go toward building 17 new schools, as well as renovating those in need of repairs and additions.
Across North Carolina
North Carolina is now home to 20 out LGBTQ elected officials, Equality North Carolina noted, as six newcomers won on Election Day.
The newly-elected LGBTQ officials are Vernetta Alston in Durham, Michelle Kennedy in Greensboro, Jane Campbell in Davidson, Karen Stegman in Chapel Hill, Tamara Sheffield in Salisbury, and Jerry Windle in Morrisville. (Learn more about these candidates online.)
“The wave of newly elected openly LGBTQ candidates will be vital in our efforts to keep the state moving forward,” said Matt Hirschy, interim executive director of Equality North Carolina. “In a state that still suffers the legacy of HB2 and the very real effects of HB142, out-elected and pro-equality representation have never been more important.”
Eight transgender candidates win elections
Eight openly transgender candidates won on Election Day, making history.
Andrea Jenkins joined the Minneapolis City Council, becoming the first openly transgender black woman elected to public office in the U.S. Another transgender candidate won a seat on the City Council as well, Phillipe Cunningham, whose race went down to the wire.
Danica Roem unseated Bob Marshall in Virginia to become Virginia’s first openly transgender lawmaker, and the first openly trans state representative in the country.
Marshall is a self-described homophobe, put forward a transphobic “bathroom bill,” misgendered Roem on the campaign trail and refused to debate her.
Gerri Cannon won a seat on the Somersworth School Board, and has said she has plans to run for New Hampshire State Representative.
Lisa Middleton became the first openly transgender member of the city council in Palm Springs, now made up entirely of members of the LGBTQ community. Middleton is also now the first openly transgender nonjudicial elected official in the state of California.
Stephe Koontz won a spot on the Doraville City Council, just northeast of Atlanta, becoming the city’s first transgender elected official.
Raven Matherne won a seat on the Stamford Board of Representatives, making her the first out trans lawmaker in the city.
Tyler Titus will join the Erie School Board, making him the first out transgender person elected to office in Pennsylvania.
Democrats also celebrated wins across the country, especially in Virginia, where Democrat Ralph Northam beat Republican Ed Gillespie and the party grabbed a number of House seats. At time of writing, it is still possible for them to take control of the House.
These Democrat and LGBTQ wins are being seen as many as a rebuke of the Trump administration and its policies.