CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The race for Charlotte City Council is the most diverse it's ever been when it comes to candidates who are running and a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Five of the candidates who are running for various seats are publicly a part of the LGBTQ+ community, the most ever in the race.
'Showing up as your authentic self changes the whole dynamic'
"In order to be a true democracy, people, voters, young people have to be able to look at their leaders in government and see themselves reflected at the table," Matt Comer with Charlotte Pride said.
If elected, Kendrick Cunningham would be the city's first non-binary elected official. Cunningham is running for the city's second district.
"For me, it really means a lot," Cunningham said. "In the 21st century, it looks like a lot of people who have traditionally been oppressed are able to be free and be their own identity."
The historic numbers in the race's slate are exciting for LaWana Mayfield, the first openly LGBTQ+ woman elected to Charlotte City Council who served eight years.
"That means a lot to me, as someone who stepped in," she said. "It's almost like I'm a parent watching my children step into an amazing opportunity of service."
Although she's not running on the premise of being an 'out' candidate, she knows its importance for representation.
"Just the representation of showing up as your authentic self changes the whole dynamic in the room," she said.
'We're running to represent the broader community '
Billy Maddalon, who once served as the city's first openly gay councilman, is running for district one.
"It's everything that's right about Charlotte," he said.
He remembers how far our community has come.
"Really dating politically to Angels in America," he explained. "It was a turning point. The county commission took the Arts and Science Council's funding away simply because there was a play in Charlotte about gay men dying of AIDS. They said it was because of 15 seconds of nudity, but come on."
"It galvanized the community," Maddalon remembered. "It's a good example of -- in America, when bad things happen, good things can come from it," he said, explaining how the community voted some commissioners out of office for it.
For Maddalon and other candidates, it's a blessing their identity is no longer the major headline of their campaign.
"At the end of the day, I'm not running as a gay candidate, the gay candidates in here tonight aren't running as gay candidates," he said. "We're running to represent the broader community. There are some blocking and tackling issues that are in our district and in our city that have to be taken care of."
'It's a different world'
Kyle Luebke is making history in his own right as the first openly gay Republican to run for Charlotte City Council.
"You can do anything, no matter your identity," Luebke said.
The race is a chance for Luebke to show others what the Republican Party is about as well as focus on the issues the city faces.
"I'm excited to bring that perspective to the race," he said. "To show that the Republican Party is not what people have thought that the Republican Party is, but that it is open to diversity, and communities that often we have not historically engaged with."
Danté Anderson, who is running for district one, believes representation matters when it comes to politics.
"I am excited about the diversity," she said. "Right now, we have over 50,000 residents who identify as some aspect of LGBTQ, which means they need representation."
She feels honored to be among the historic list of candidates running for a seat and knows it's a milestone.
"Compared to when I was young -- wow, it's a different world," she added.
The primary election will be held on May 17, 2022.