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Lesbian Running for S.C. Sheriff Defeats Male Boss Who Demoted Her

Kristin Graziano

Kristin Graziano has been elected the first woman and first out gay sheriff in South Carolina, ousting an incumbent who’d been in office since 1988.

Graziano, a Democrat, beat Republican Al Cannon in Tuesday’s race for sheriff of Charleston County, which is the third most populous county in the state and includes the city of Charleston. The vote was 52 percent to 48 percent, The Post and Courier reports.

“I think the people of Charleston are ready for a change,” she said at a press conference Wednesday, according to the paper. “When you look at the voting totals, we crossed party lines. This is not straight ticket Democrat-Republican. This is what people wanted.”

“Graziano campaigned on a promise of accountability, reform and forging bonds with all communities,” The Post and Courier notes.

She plans to conduct booth a financial audit and a racial bias audit of the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office. Cannon has called the racial bias office a waste of money. She also wants to diversify the department’s ranks.

“First we need to put people in the community that look like the community, and we need to work on our diversity and our inclusion,” she said at the press conference. “I’m confident. We have incredible, dedicated officers in Charleston County currently serving. I’ve spoken to many of them already, and I’m very confident that we are going to make some very good headway in the first 100 days.”

Graziano has worked in law enforcement for 32 years, 18 of them with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office. She has been a member and trainer of SWAT teams, worked in antiterrorism efforts, and developed a model for responding to school shooter scenarios. She was won several awards. But Cannon placed her on leave in February when he learned she planned to run for sheriff.

She had the endorsement of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, South Carolina Equality, and several prominent individuals, including Jaime Harrison, who ran against Lindsey Graham for U.S. senator from South Carolina.

Graziano is one of two lesbian sheriffs elected this year, the other being Charmaine McGuffey in Hamilton County, Ohio. They are among just a handful of LGBTQ+ candidates elected to such posts; their predecessors include Texans Margo Frasier and Lupe Valdez.

“Not only are these wins historic, but they’re a sign of positive change in law enforcement spaces,” a Victory Fund blog post notes of Graziano and McGuffey. “Both Charmaine and Kristin took on an old-boys network that thrived on abuse. Both women made police and prison reform pillars of their campaigns and have pledged to create more inclusive departments while increasing community outreach. And both spoke about how being a lesbian and a woman will make them better leaders. We’re thrilled they’ve won!”

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