There has been a lot written about Obama's recent nomination of Mel Watt to over-see the government-backed mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Little has been said about who might fill Watt's shoes after he's gone.
As a gay male who resides in North Carolina, I am excited to hear that NC State Representative Marcus Brandon is stepping up to the plate and preparing to run for U.S. Congressman Mel Watt's (D) old seat. Watt has been nominated by President Obama to become the Nation's Housing Czar.
I am excited, because we need normal folk in national positions if the real people of North Carolina ever hope to be heard.
Rep. Brandon is no stranger to playing the long odds in political campaigns. He won his state election against four-term incumbent and 30 year political veteran Earl Jones.
Brandon won that election 60 to 40 percent, making him the first openly gay member of the NC House, one of 5 African-American openly gay elected officials in the country and the only one in the south.
I know Brandon as a friend and ally; I spent a fair amount of time with him in Charlotte during the Democratic National Convention last year. Brandon is a down-to-earth man who is more intent on creating jobs for his constituents than party politics.
I have covered stories about Brandon and am supporting his campaign. I have had drinks with Brandon and am always excited to know what he is doing next. I tend to trust politicians who will share a whiskey sour and real life stories over those that are only available through their website addresses and public forums.
Can Brandon fill Watt's shoes? I think if given a chance, he will add to more progress and less congressional theater than anyone else we'd send up to do the job.
Brandon is not the kind of guy who is only looking to enrich himself; he is a true public servant. He is an honest progressive. He has done things like champion "second-chance reform" for those convicted of crimes in the past who are now looking for gainful employment.
North Carolina deserves to have a better public face. We need equality for all of our citizens, not the lackluster of Jim Crow. The past twelve months have shown North Carolina to take steps backwards where civil rights are concerned. Last year we saw passage of Amendment One, which banned same sex marriage although the state constitution clearly prohibited the act already. This was followed by proposed laws that would allow Christianity to become the state religion and a measure that would allow medical workers to refuse to perform abortions based on their faith, instead of the woman's best interest, to name a few. This makes it hard for people with common sense to live in this state, although we contribute to it's economy and pay some of the highest taxes in the nation.
While I am excited to see what the future holds for Marcus Brandon as he attempts to win Watt's seat, I am not blind to the fact that the battle will be uphill. Brandon has voted "yes" on issues like allowing educators to have firearms in school and helped Republicans override the former Governor Beverly Perdue's budget. These kinds of moves have not always sat well with the Democrats in the State.
Being gay is still taboo in North Carolina, only second to being black. Brandon is both. Racism and bigotry are alive in the south. Although the more populated areas are more open-minded, the word "faggot" and "n*****" are still used to describe those in the queer and black community. That is still the unacceptable reality facing our state.
Still, I think Marcus may pull it off. Though he has to reach across the isle more than most dyed-in-the-wool Democrats would like, he realizes that bipartisan thinking is the only way to advance the State of North Carolina and the nation as a whole.
Here is to you Marcus: god speed and good luck. There are many of us in the cheap seats hoping you'll win.
A version of this blog was first posted in The Q Notes.