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Openly Gay Newcomer Rises From Precinct Leader to Candidate for N.C. State Office

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Q&A with Wade Boyles

For someone who had never volunteered for a political campaign until this year, Wade Boyles, 36, of Winston-Salem, N.C., hasn't wasted any time in learning the ropes. Since March of this year, he's gone from volunteering in his local precinct to serving as statewide director for Obama Pride to running his own campaign as the Democratic challenger in the race for the 74th district of the N.C. House of Representatives. It could be politics is in his DNA. Originally from nearby Stokes County, both of Boyles' grandparents served as judges, and he fondly remembers the excitement of Election Night. One of his cousins currently sits on the Stokes County Board of Commissioners. But Boyles is doing more than continuing a family tradition. He says he was inspired by Barack Obama to make a difference, and that's what he intends to do. Boyles was most recently an account analyst and customer service representative for American Express, is a member of Wake Forest Baptist Church and lives with his partner of two years.

What inspired you to get involved in politics for the first time?

I kept hearing Obama speaking, and he would say, "Just don't believe in me and my abilities--believe in yours. It's what you can do to help America." And I thought, "I have time on my hands. Why don't I do this thing?" So I go to my precinct meeting back in March, and they elect me vice chair--I had no idea what I was getting into! Then I volunteered one day at the Forsyth County Democratic headquarters, and then I went to a Young Democrats of Forsyth meeting, and they elected me vice president of the Young Democrats. Then I got involved with the local Winston-Salem GLBT [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered] for Obama. A friend of a friend of a friend kind of got my name mentioned to other Obama campaign coordinators, and I eventually got a call from Chicago, and I was asked if I would be interested in joining or coordinating the GLBT vote in North Carolina. Then I began mobilizing and coordinating LGBT volunteers for Obama, and canvassing and helping with voter registration. Obama Pride now has excellent regional coordinators across North Carolina, and I recently joined the team on an LGBT Get Out the Vote tour across the state.

You're also serving as co-chair for Roy Carter's campaign against incumbent Virginia Foxx in North Carolina's 5th U.S. Congressional District. How are you able to fit that in?

The Carter campaign works well for me because all of my state house district is in the 5th Congressional district. There are many occasions when Roy and I campaign together.
Can you estimate how many hours you have spent volunteering since early this year?
Probably around 1,200 hours. Just guessing. So much of my volunteer work can be done from home on the computer.

Sounds like you were already quite busy. Why did you decide to run as a candidate for state house?

The candidate who was running had to drop out in early summer. When the local Democratic party needed someone, my name was mentioned. They first asked if I knew anyone who would be interested in running from my neighborhood. When they count not find anyone, at the last minute I told them to put my name down. We could not have the ticket go without a Democratic candidate, and I agreed to give it my best shot. Within 24 hours of making the announcement, I had already received a call from a friend and an ordained Baptist minister who volunteered to be my campaign manager. She, Rev. Laura Barclay, has been a huge help. Other volunteers soon followed, and the campaign was in full swing.

How are you juggling the demands of volunteering and campaigning with your personal life?

I am fortunate to have a wonderful family and friends in my life who help me in so many ways. My parents have loved me unconditionally my entire life and support me 100%. My father has been with me on several events along the campaign trail. He's retired and loves going out and meeting people. My partner is happy that I've found something that I really enjoy doing, and he supports me completely. He volunteers behind the scenes with helping me write my speeches and giving me ideas for campaign slogans, etc. Being the computer geek that he is, he maintains and manages the campaign Web site [www.wadeboyles.com] and Facebook fan page. Even with all the campaign events and tours across the district, I still manage to keep up my chores around the house. I'm responsible for laundry, and my partner has his duties. He attends the really big events with me, but he works full-time at the local medical center, so he usually stays home after work and plays on his Mac.

Have there been any sacrifices you've had to make or how has politics affected your daily life?

I am away from home more often, especially in the evenings. But that works out just fine. It gives my partner time to geek out with the computer, without me around to bug him. There honestly hasn't been any sacrifices made in my life as a result of running for state office. If there is one, it would have to be that I cannot do as much for the Obama campaign as I would like since my focus is now on my own race.

With your new political involvement this year, what experience stands out the most?

What has been the most surprising to me is the amount of people who are volunteering. I have met some of the most wonderful, caring and loving people ever. There are friendships I have made through this process that I see lasting a lifetime.

How has your volunteer work and other experiences changed how you see politics?

I cannot say it has changed the way I see politics, but I can say that the local Democratic party has been excited about having the GLBT community involved this year like never before. The Forsyth County Democratic party is very welcoming and affirming.

Has being openly gay helped or hurt your efforts in any way? How are constituents in the 74th district responding to you?

Well, that has yet to be determined! I haven't had anything negative said to my face about me being gay nor anything negative in the press. Everything has been positive. Being gay and in my position has provided opportunities to speak to local Gay, Straight Alliance groups at the universities and high schools in the area.

With less than a week until the election, how are you feeling about Obama's chances?

I'm always nervous leading up to an election. I've seen how past elections were either given away or where the Democrats didn't fight enough. The Republican have come from behind more than once and beat us in the end, but I feel Obama has truly inspired millions of people, just as he did me. Having North Carolina as a battleground state has really energized people here. I remain optimistic that Obama will win the race, and I still believe he can win North Carolina.

How do you feel about your chances of winning state office?

My election is more of an uphill battle. I entered the race late, but recently there has been much in the press about my opponent and I sparring off on a local bond referendum. I support the Forsyth Techinical Community College bond, and he does not. This appears to be building momentum for my campaign. We will just have to wait and see how it turns out on Tuesday. All the Democrats and unaffiliated voters that I've spoken to have voted straight Democratic ticket. I'm even aware of a couple of Republicans who did the same, voted straight Democratic ticket
.
Describe your schedule between now and Election Day
.

Events every day, especially in the evenings. Except Sunday, I try to take most of Sunday off to attend church and spend the day with my parents and partner.

At the end of those long days, what is keeping you motivated?

I believe this country is ready for change, and I keep focused on that message from Obama, and it keeps me motivated to do what I do.