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Equality NC Messed Up

Equality NC is a great organization that does so much good for the LGBTQ+ community. However, it appears it’s time for them to drastically change their endorsement process for local races, or stop endorsing altogether. It’s a fairly small organization and it doesn’t seem like they are able to get all the necessary community input to make well-informed endorsement decisions. They messed up in 2017 when they had to retract their endorsement for Charles Francis (https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article180688946.html) and they messed up again this year, tried to fix it, and still didn’t get it right.

On August 8th Equality NC notified Raleigh city council candidates who they were endorsing. The candidates endorsed at that time were:

Mayor: Caroline Sullivan
At Large: Jonathan Melton, Russ Stephenson
A: Sam Hershey
B: David Cox
D: Saige Martin
E: Stef Mendell

The reaction from the Raleigh LGBT community to some of the people that were endorsed or not endorsed ranged from confusion to dismay. I don’t envy the staff that had to deal with the deluge of emails and calls that came in after the announcement. I was able to get a reply from an Equality NC staff member and they said that their endorsements were made almost solely based off a candidate questionnaire and they had gotten very little community input. Obviously.

Here are the 3 most obvious errors with the original endorsements:

  • Brian Fitzsimmons is running in district B. Brian has run for city council before and one of his main campaign items was to revise Raleigh’s nondiscrimination policy to ensure that city employees of all sexual and gender orientations are protected. Brian did not win that election, but he was later able to get appointed to the Raleigh human relations commission where he helped write a non-discrimination ordinance that was passed by city council. This is true leadership in the fight for Equality. (https://www.newsobserver.com/article10281401.html)

  • Mary-Ann Baldwin has always been very visible and attentive to the needs of the LGBT community in Raleigh (which of these other Mayor candidates have you run into at Legends?). As someone with a gay sibling, she knows very intimately the discrimination that our community has faced. In 2012, she was very vocal in her opposition and campaigned against Amendment 1 in NC and after HB2 was passed in 2016, she helped with the negotiations to get that legislation repealed. How can you not endorse someone with this track record?

  • Nicole Stewart, running at-large, is someone else that has been a friend of the LGBT community long before she even ran for council. Almost as importantly in this race, arguably one of the main goals of Equality NC should be to get LGBT candidates elected when they are running. If the goal is to get Jonathan Melton elected (a gay man) then they should not have also endorsed his opponent when it is clear Jonathan wants to be working with Nicole this Fall. It doesn’t take an expert political strategist to see the fallacy here.

To Equality NC’s credit, on August 27th they added Nicole Stewart and Brian Fitzsimmons to their endorsement list, over-endorsing in those races (https://equalitync.org/news/enc_2019_municipal_endorsements/). This shows they at least took some community feedback in, realized some mistakes, and made changes. However, if you are going to over-endorse in some races, but not add Mary-Ann to the list of endorsees for Mayor, there is still a major mistake being made. To many of us in the LGBT community, it seems there is someone with ulterior motives with some serious sway over at Equality NC. To us, the Raleigh City Council endorsements from Equality NC have become meaningless and we hope those outside the community don’t think this list represents who we want you to vote for. To Equality NC: mistakes like this hurt your image with the local community, I hope you can thoroughly revise your process or just take a step back and not endorse in local elections.


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