LGBTQ Community Thoughts After Durham’s Primary Elections

Photo by Kendall Chavis, Rainbow painted on mailbox in Durham

As Durham gets closer to its municipal elections this year, one demographic has important topics on its mind when deciding between candidates. 

The remaining two candidates for the mayor of Durham are Mike Woodard and Leonardo Williams. Sylvester Williams, who has previously opposed gay marriage and cited sexuality as a contributor to the high drug and crime rate in the city, lost in the primaries on Oct. 10. 

Sylvester Williams received less than 2% of the vote in the primary election. 

As the third vice chair for the North Carolina Democratic Party, Elijah King said all of the candidates running for office in Durham have been great, except for Williams. 

“I think all of them have been absolutely monumental, instead of Sylvester Williams,” King said. “We’re very aware of his ideas towards these things – towards LGBTQ issues.”

Tyler Beall is the president of the LGBTQ Democrats of North Carolina. Beall said he has spent most of his time doing advocacy work ahead the municipal elections in other counties across the state, because Durham already has good LGBTQ community representation.  

“Durham’s a bit more unique of a situation as opposed to a lot of our other municipalities because they’re such a base of progressive values and such,” Beall said. 

Beall also said it’s important for LGBTQ Democrats to have a scorecard that specifically outlines candidates’ issues and how they interact with LGBTQ life. He said the scorecards can help candidates have a higher success rate through the primaries.   

“Hopefully it gets more perspective on the primary, and then not only gets people more understanding of the candidates and get better people into office, but hopefully we get more people to turn up to the polls as well and actually vote for the primary election,” Beall said. 

King has been pushing for politicians in the NCDP to have a stance on LGBTQ rights, especially after the North Carolina General Assembly passed multiple bills infringing on transgender rights. 

King said it’s important to him, as a member of the LGBTQ community, to make sure LGBTQ voters know they have representation in the party.

One issue Beall said the LGBTQ community has always been focused on is housing. 

“LGBTQ people in general often can struggle with [housing], whether that is through discrimination or just, of course, central systemic issues in terms of economic ability to get into those areas,” Beall said. 

Another issue concerning the community is access to health care – specially gender affirming care, according to Beall, since August, when the N.C. General Assembly voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes on three bills. 

The bills include H.B. 808, prohibiting gender affirming care to minors, S.B. 49, the Parents’ Bill of Rights and H.B. 574, prohibiting transgender female athletes from participating in sports according to their gender identity. 

King said he believes Durham is “in really good hands” with this upcoming election because all the front-running candidates have the community in mind. 

“I think that the LGBTQ community has nothing to fear because of the fact that [the candidates] are all allies, and I’m very proud of that,” King said.