BY Advocate.com Editors
November 17 2009 5:15 PM ET
When Election Day 2009 came to a close, many of us in the LGBT community were focused on the devastating blow of rollback of marriage equality in Maine. But there were some noteworthy bright spots in local races around the country. One gay man in North Carolina found himself celebrating a victory — Mark Kleinschmidt, the mayor-elect of Chapel Hill. Despite the town's liberal reputation and Kleinschmidt's long history of public service — he has served on the Chapel Hill town council since December 2001 — Mark won his race by only 106 votes. Blogger Pam Spaulding, who lives a stone's throw away in Durham, N.C., sat down with Kleinschmidt to talk about the political climate in North Carolina and the mixed feelings about the results of the election as well as his personal rethinking on the matter of marriage equality and the ballot box.
Pam Spaulding: What made you decide to run?
Mark Kleinschmidt: I've been on the council for eight years, and I wouldn't have run if our current mayor [Kevin Foy] hadn't decided to retire. And looking around at the possible replacements, I felt there was a real vacuum in leadership; there weren't any current council members or even former council members or others who were active in the community who were positioned well to take over the reins; I just felt I was the best qualified. I was concerned about Chapel Hill and whether or not there going to be any alternatives. Considering the other possibilities, I believed that I would be the best choice, so I did it.
Since you have been personally and professionally out of the closet for a long time, did you expect your orientation to be an issue in this race, since C.H. has a progressive rep?
I didn't. And then I had some opponents that were unexpected, including a couple of Republicans, and it did give me pause. I wondered when they joined the race whether or not it was going to be an issue. And it did come up toward the end in a way that didn't help my opponents at all.
During the early voting [two weeks before the election], one of the candidates [Kevin Wolff] announced that he was withdrawing from the race; nonetheless he maintained a presence at the polling sites and did some amount of campaigning. And one of the things he did was that he had signs at our early-voting places with literature tacked on for voters to educate themselves. And he had a typical campaign piece where he compared himself to his opponents ... and there was a checklist — "Who's going to lower your taxes ... I would, he [Kleinschmidt] wouldn't," typical things like that. But then there were these other points ... "Family," as in does he have a family — "I have a family," but Kleinschmidt doesn't have a family. The last one was "Gay Rights Activist" and he proudly has "N" for no, he's not one, and neither were any of the other candidates, but then "Yes. Mark Is a Gay Rights Activist." I was shocked.
The greatest impact it had was it showed voters how out of touch he was with the community; he had just moved to town four years ago, and he apparently has not been around long enough to know the town he has moved to.