Among last night’s good news, and there was a lot folks, really, was the election of Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s openly gay mayor, Mark Kleinschmidt. Here’s a great recounting of the final moments from Indy Week.
Supporters erupted. His mother burst into tears. His sister shouted. Mark Kleinschmidt just smiled contently, arms crossed but giving the kind of ear-to-ear grin you could feel across the room, satisfaction and disbelief merging together on his face. The campaign had just received word that rival Matt Czajkowski had made his concession speech at the Franklin Hotel.
The progressive bloc had won. They’d just escaped a new, moderate business-centered group gaining traction and council seats. Not so fast. Word came back that one precinct, Patterson, was yet to report. Kleinschmidt was up a scant 168 votes. The jubilation turned to shocked concern. It was too close to call. “I don’t want a ‘Dewey defeats Truman’ headline,” Kleinschmidt warned reporters at his R&R Grill party. The pack of local politicos returned to the laptop, clicking refresh again and again. Moments later, the candidate’s ever-buzzing cell phone went off once more. It was Mayor Kevin Foy calling to congratulate him. Kleinschmidt cautioned him, but thanked him for his support. Then the results flashed on the TV screens.
It was final — Kleinschmidt had won. “Oh, that’s it. We won it,” he said calmly to Foy. The crowd, already snakebitten, didn’t know what to do for a moment. Then it erupted again. “There’s a lot of people with cameras here, and I’m going to talk to them,” Kleinschmidt told his sudden predecessor. The swarm of reporters surged forward, someone handed the new mayor a microphone. With the other Triangle races not as contested, media came to Chapel Hill in search of a story. Lights flashed. Kleinschmidt’s back looked like a Christmas tree with microphones from four different TV stations hooked up to him, wires interwoven. “How does this affect my silhoutte,” he asked jokingly. “That’s the issue that the gay mayor is concerned about.”
Yes, Chapel Hill is a “liberal college town” – but we’re still talking about North Carolina here. I’m proud of my birth state this morning.