Wake County

LGBTQ rights group revokes endorsement of Democratic candidate for Raleigh mayor

Equality NC on Oct. 23 revoked its endorsement of Democrat Charles Francis, left, who’s running for Raleigh mayor. Equality NC instead endorsed incumbent Nancy McFarlane, who is unaffiliated.
Equality NC on Oct. 23 revoked its endorsement of Democrat Charles Francis, left, who’s running for Raleigh mayor. Equality NC instead endorsed incumbent Nancy McFarlane, who is unaffiliated. 2015 News & Observer file photo

A leading voice for gay and transgender rights in North Carolina has revoked its endorsement of Charles Francis, the Democratic candidate running for mayor of Raleigh, citing his ties to “anti-LGBTQ” politicians and donors.

The Equality NC Action Fund, a political action committee, announced Monday that it is endorsing unaffiliated incumbent Mayor Nancy McFarlane in the Nov. 7 runoff election against Francis, a registered Democrat.

The group endorsed both candidates prior to the Oct. 10 general election, in which no candidate received 50 percent of the vote, which is required to secure the seat outright.

Equality NC said it decided to endorse McFarlane after finding that Francis, a local attorney, previously campaigned for “an anti-LGBTQ candidate, former Senator and gubernatorial candidate Fred Smith,” the statement says.

Smith, a Republican, ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2008. He previously served in the N.C. General Assembly.

The group’s statement continues: “Further research has led us to be concerned by the number and amount of Mr. Francis’ anti-LGBTQ donors, his time spent campaigning for prominent sponsors of Amendment One, his donation to pro-HB2 and anti Affordable Care Act (Congressman) George Holding, and his courting of the Wake County GOP leadership that was instrumental in pushing HB2 in North Carolina.”

HB2 is the controversial law the General Assembly passed last year requiring people to use the public restrooms in government buildings that correspond with their birth gender. Equality NC opposed the law, which legislators repealed earlier this year.

Raleigh mayor Nancy McFarlane took Charles Francis to task for what she called “misleading rhetoric” during a press conference outside City Hall Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.

Amendment One is a referendum to the state constitution approved by North Carolina voters five years ago banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. Same-sex weddings have been legal since a federal court ruling in October 2014, but there’s been no effort to update the constitution.

Matt Hirschy, interim executive director of Equality NC, described McFarlane as “an ally” who spoke out against HB2 “and used it as an opportunity to address transgender-specific issues” in Raleigh.

“Furthermore, Mayor McFarlane has a strong connection to the LGBTQ community in Raleigh and was awarded for her work by the LGBT Center of Raleigh with the 2017 Ally of the Year Award,” Hirschy said. “Her long record on LGBTQ issues and her strong leadership in moving Raleigh forward and inclusive for all, make Mayor McFarlane the clear choice for voters.”

In a news release sMonday, McFarlane said she was thankful for the endorsement.

“It is an honor to receive the sole endorsement of EqualityNC,” McFarlane said in a statement. “Their advocacy has been instrumental in pushing forward and securing equal rights and justice for LGBTQ North Carolinians. Raleigh’s diversity makes us stronger, and I stand committed to continuing the work of ensuring every person is treated with the fairness, respect, and dignity they deserve.”

Francis didn’t immediately comment on losing the endorsement.

Raleigh mayoral candidate Charles Francis speaks to his supporters during an election night party at The Big Easy in Raleigh on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

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