Second openly gay city council candidate in state this year
Another openly gay man has announced his intention to run for a city council office in North Carolina. Lee Sartain, a Charlotte native and N.C. State University alumnus, made the announcement in early June. He‚Äôs running to fill one of two at-large seats on the Raleigh City Council.
In a telephone interview with Q-Notes, Sartain, 28, said his primary campaign issue will focus on economic development. He wants to create a ‚ÄúRaleigh Innovation and Technology Zone.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs trying to basically take pre-existing technological space and doing a more concentrated effort around creating the [Research Triangle Park] of 2009 in downtown Raleigh.‚ÄĚ
He says such a ‚Äútech zone‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ what he calls a ‚Äúdowntown renaissance‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ would both mirror and complement the success of the Research Park.
Sartain also wants to focus on building more comprehensive public transportation.
‚ÄúThe difference between Charlotte and Raleigh is that our regional transportation is split between three counties,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThere has not been any major success getting the commuter rail up and running. If they can‚Äôt come up with a reasonable plan, Raleigh needs to do it on its own.‚ÄĚ
Neighborhood development and several other local government issues round out Sartain‚Äôs campaign focuses.
Sartain will be the second openly gay man running for a city council seat in this election season. Owen Sutkowski announced his candidacy for Charlotte City Council in late May. Mark Kleinschmidt, currently a member of the Chapel Hill Town Council, is also running for mayor there.
But Sartain wants to be known for more than his sexual orientation.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm not particularly keen on being called the ‚Äėgay candidate,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Lee Sartain, a 2009 city council candidate in Raleigh, told Q-Notes.
In today‚Äôs time, Sartain said, gay and lesbian people actually have a chance to run for office and make a difference on a range of issues other than those pertaining to the LGBT community.
‚ÄúOne of the things that strikes me in 2009, is that if you look back over history and you look back to Harvey Milk ‚ÄĒ that was 30 years ago and he was the gay candidate,‚ÄĚ Sartain said. ‚ÄúIn 2009, you are not the gay candidate. You are just a candidate. I don‚Äôt necessarily think it is helpful for the community to run as the gay candidate. If you are, you might not even get my vote.‚ÄĚ
Sartain said he‚Äôs always been involved in public service. ‚ÄúThis is certainly a way to be involved in a more significant way,‚ÄĚ he said of his campaign.
‚ÄúA lot of people have it in their minds that maybe they want to run for office, but they never take that next step to do it,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThey get involved in lobbying and the legislative process, but they don‚Äôt take that leap and put themselves out there as a candidate.‚ÄĚ
Sartain worked for the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, a part of the College of Education at N.C. State University. He is a member of the Wake County Library Commission and is active in the life of his two churches, White Memorial Presbyterian and Pullen Memorial Baptist.
In the past, he‚Äôs served in various church roles, including a stint as interim minister of young adults. As a student at N.C. State University, Sartain worked with the school‚Äôs LGBT student organization.