WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dozens of openly gay and lesbian candidates running in municipal and state legislative races across the country won their Nov. 6 elections, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a national group dedicated to increasing the number of LGBT public officials at all levels of government.
Lydia Lavelle with openly gay Orange County Commissioner Mike Nelson.
Photo Credit: Lydia Lavelle
Of the record 71 candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund in 2007, at least 31 won their races on Election Day (some were too close to call at press time), while 10 others were elected earlier this year. At least three more endorsed candidates received enough votes to advance to runoff elections.
In the Carolinas, Lydia Lavelle won a seat on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, becoming the seventh openly LGBT candidate elected in North Carolina.
She joins State Sen. Julia Boseman (District 9), Boone City Council member Janet Pepin, Chapel Hill City Council member Mark Kleinschmidt, Orange County Commissioner Mike Nelson and Warren County Commissioner Ernest Fleming. North Carolina’s first openly gay elected official, Joe Herzenberg, died Oct. 28 (see story in this issue for details).
Lavelle is Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at North Carolina Central University School of Law. She is also a licensed attorney and member of North Carolina Gay Advocacy Legal Alliance (NCGALA). She lives in Carrboro with her partner and their two children.
She told Q-Notes, “I’m very excited, this was my first run for office and I campaigned pretty heavily. There were six of us running for three open spots. I was just hoping to finish in the top three and I wound up finishing first. I'm happy and honored for that.”
Sexual orientation was a non-issue in her race, she added. “I think I live in the best community in North Carolina. This area has already had several out elect officials and I was very honest — I was very open about my partner and our two kids — and no one batted an eye in Carrboro.”
Victory Fund President and CEO Chuck Wolfe said the growing number of openly LGBT candidates demonstrates the gay community’s increasing involvement in electoral politics. “This is the path to change. We are not content to sit on the sidelines and hope that others do the right thing for our community. We will step up and lead the fight for a more equal and fair America, and we will win.”
The Victory Fund’s 71 endorsements set a record for an odd-numbered year, in which there are no federal elections. In 2006, the group endorsed 88 candidates and it expects to endorse more than 100 candidates in 2008. Wolfe said planning has already begun for next year’s races.
“2008 will be another record-breaking year for gay candidates, and they’ll need help to counter the inevitable attacks from anti-gay hate groups. We’ll be ready to fight,” he pledged.
Among the Election Day highlights:
• Joel Burns, a candidate for the Fort Worth, Tex., City Council advanced to a December runoff election as the top vote-getter after being subjected to anti-gay smears from an opponent.
• Craig Covey won his race for mayor of Ferndale, Mich., becoming the first openly gay mayor elected in the state of Michigan.
• Michelle Bruce, an openly transgender incumbent on the Riverdale, Ga., City Council was the top vote-getter in her race and advances to a runoff election.
• New Jersey State Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who became the state’s first openly LGBT state legislator when he came out during his current term, won re-election to his seat.
• Jeffrey Anderson was elected to the Duluth City Council, becoming the first openly gay elected official in northern Minnesota.
• Tim Eustace won his race for mayor of Maywood, N.J.
• Brian Bates won a seat on the Doraville, Ga., City Council, becoming the first openly gay Republican ever to win office in the state.