I doubt it…. but Democrat Jim Neal is giving it a shot.
Jim Neal, a Democrat challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole in 2008, says he is gay. As the only current candidate for his party’s nomination, Neal could make history while also complicating N.C. Democrats’ chances of breaking a streak of Senate losses.
“I am indeed,” Neal wrote Saturday on the liberal blog BlueNC, in response to a reader asking if he’s gay. “No secret and no big deal to me — I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think otherwise.”
Neal, a 50-year-old investment banker from Chapel Hill, also indicated that he disagrees with laws that do not recognize same-sex marriage.
Such comments could have ended a campaign as recently as a decade ago — particularly in a socially conservative state — but political analysts and activists reacted Monday with less certainty. Some said Dole’s many advantages mean the race won’t be competitive anyway.
“We might not get a real test of that in the race because Neal is not known very well at all,” said N.C. State University political scientist Andy Taylor.
This is Neal’s first run for office in North Carolina. He has spent much of his adult life outside the state, though he is a Greensboro native who went to UNC Chapel Hill.
Few openly gay candidates in North Carolina have run for so prominent an office. Former Mecklenburg judge Ray Warren ran for U.S. Senate in 2002 before pulling out and running unsuccessfully for U.S. House.
There could be at least one other openly gay candidate for statewide office in 2008: N.C. Court of Appeals Judge John Arrowood of Charlotte — recently appointed by Gov. Mike Easley — is expected to run for a full term.
Other Democratic candidates could still file for Senate until the February deadline, though the party has had trouble recruiting.
Neal wrote Saturday he doesn’t think sexual orientation will keep him from winning.
“When people meet me, they’ll see beyond the labels and into my character.”
That’s the strategy he should have, said Ian Palmquist, executive director of Equality North Carolina, which advocates for gays and lesbians. “I believe that if a candidate has a strong message that is relevant to North Carolina voters, and the experience to show they’re qualified for the job, their sexual orientation is not going to matter much to most voters,” Palmquist said.
Hey, you gotta admit this Neal guy has a brass set. Good for him — I hope he is the Democrat nominee. I’d like to see what kind of campaign this would turn into. I predict that from both NC political parties we would see peoples’ better angels and ugly devils.
I’m voting for Elizabeth Dole regardless.
[Related Story – Good Morning, Jim Neal – Blue NC]