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The Lesbian Who Could Replace Madison Cawthorn and More Primary News

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara

The U.S. House seat currently held by far-right Republican Madison Cawthorn could end up going to a lesbian Democrat in the general election.

That woman is the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who won Tuesday’s Democratic primary in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. She is a Buncombe County commissioner, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and the founding executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. She prevailed easily over several other candidates, winning nearly 60 percent of the vote.

Cawthorn, a freshman congressman who has been under fire from his own party, will not be her opponent. He lost the Republican primary to Chuck Edwards, currently a North Carolina state senator.

Cawthorn had drawn criticism over a variety of issues. He said he’d been invited to an orgy in Washington, D.C., and called Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug.” Several women have accused him of sexual harassment and other misconduct.

Beach-Ferrara sees little difference between Cawthorn and Edwards where ideology is concerned. “The politics of Chuck Edwards and Madison Cawthorn are nearly identical, and they are extreme, and they do not reflect the values of Western North Carolina,” she told supporters at a rally Tuesday night, according to TV station WLOS.

The district leans Republican, but Beach-Ferrara could win in November if there is high turnout in Buncombe County, which includes Asheville, and if some other counties could be flipped to the Democrats, Western Carolina University political science professor Chris Cooper told the station.

Beach-Ferrara was one of The Advocate’s Champions of Pride in 2021. “I am most proud to be part of the community that is on the frontlines of the extraordinary organizing that is happening across the South to defeat anti-trans legislation and to be following the leadership of trans folks in these efforts — not just to defeat bills, but to stand with trans youth in particular and make sure they know they are loved, celebrated, and part of a community,” she said at the time.

There were several other notable victories for LGBTQ+ candidates Tuesday. Also in North Carolina, LaWana Mayfield was one of the top four Democratic candidates for at-large seats on the Charlotte City Council, so she will advance to the city’s general election, to be held July 26. For the at-large seats, four Democrats will face four Republicans. Mayfield, a Black lesbian, could be the first out member of the LGBTQ+ community elected citywide in Charlotte; from 2011 to 2019, she was a district representative on the council. There are currently just six Black lesbians on city councils around the nation, and none in the South, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

“LaWana shattered this lavender ceiling because she has always shown up and delivered for her community,” Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker said in a press release. “Her neighbors and constituents not only trust her, but they are excited and inspired by her vision for Charlotte. We are confident her commitment to affordable housing, economic fairness and justice will not only prove successful in November but will be the backbone of her future success on the council. At a time when LGBTQ people and people of color are under attack in legislatures across the South, LaWana’s victory demonstrates that voters are ready to elect people who will fight back.”

Four out members of the North Carolina House, all Democrats, were unopposed in their primaries. They are Vernetta Alston, Deb Butler, Allison Dahle, and Marcia Morey.

In Kentucky, Tina Ward-Pugh, a lesbian, won the Democratic primary for Jefferson County clerk. In the general election in November, she will face Republican incumbent Bobbie Holsclaw. If Ward-Pugh wins, she will be the first out member of the LGBTQ+ community to be a county clerk in Kentucky. Jefferson County includes Louisville and is the most populous county in the state.

Also in Kentucky, Keturah Herron was unopposed in the Democratic primary for state representative from District 42, which covers part of Louisville, and she has no opponent in the general election either. She won a special election in February to succeed a representative who retired, and now she will be running for a full term as the only out member of the legislature. She is Black, queer, and genderqueer.

A race that included no LGBTQ+ candidates but is nonetheless significant saw former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the state’s infamous anti-trans “bathroom bill” in 2016, lose the Republican primary for U.S. Senate to Ted Budd, a U.S. House member who was backed by Donald Trump. Budd’s supporters actually painted McCrory as “too liberal” during the campaign, CNN reports.

Budd will face Democrat Cheri Beasley in November. Beasley is a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights who has been a public defender and chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. She would be the first Black U.S. senator from the state. She had the Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement. She and Budd are vying to replace Republican Richard Burr, who is retiring.

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