North Carolina congressional hopeful Wendy May made history Wednesday by becoming the first transgender candidate in the state to file for federal office. May, a fifty-six-year-old army veteran, filled out the requisite paperwork at the State Board of Elections office in Raleigh and then cheerfully announced her candidacy on Facebook live.
"I am running as the first transgender veteran faith leader from North Carolina," May said, after posing with supporters in front of a campaign poster. "After House Bill 2 was passed, I made a decision, and that decision was never to let that happen in our backyard again. And by getting to Congress, I will be able to pass nondiscrimination laws that will affect every citizen in the United States. I am proud to say that the war to take this seat back has just begun."
May, who identifies as a "New Deal Democrat," hopes to dethrone U.S. Representative George Holding, a Republican whose district covers parts of Wake, Harnett, Johnston, Wilson, Nash, and Franklin counties. In recent months, Holding has been criticized for refusing to hold town halls and his office has been the site of routine protests from left-leaning constituents (in August, protesters delivered
him "failing" report card for his record in office). Holding's seat is among those that will be targeted by Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections—the Cook Political Report currently rates Holding’s seat as competitive but “likely Republican”
—and it is precisely the kind of victory Democrats need to notch in order to gain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. May believes her background—as a one-time Republican, no less—makes her a formidable opponent for Holding.
"I used to be a Republican and a male, so I know [Holding's] vulnerability," she said. "His voting record. I'm willing to go head-to-head with him on issues. And my issues are those that affect every North Carolina resident in the second congressional district."
May told the INDY
she's always had her eye on a congressional run. But she became serious about it after she was approached by members of LGBTQ community at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and asked if she would throw her hat in the ring.
"I knew that if the second congressional district was not won in 2016, then I would be a candidate in 2018," May said. Yesterday, she made that official.
May is quick to point out that she's not running on her gender identity, but instead, a platform focused on her policy priorities, such as universal health care, a livable wage, infrastructure, social security strengthening, and Medicare and Medicaid reform. But the optics of her candidacy—the first transgender woman in the state that authored the notorious bathroom bill—will make the race especially interesting. (May, who lived for many years in New Jersey, says a Republican county party chair in the state sent her a letter informing her she was no longer in the party after she transitioned).
"I officially made the decision to transition, so I no longer fit into their mold," she said. "And the Democrats have a large tent. The preamble of the North Carolina Democratic Party is what made me be such a strong Democrat. The preamble accepts everyone. I want to be the congressperson for all."
To do so, May will have to not only defeat Holding but also win the Democratic primary in May. In that contest, she’ll face Raleigh businessman Ken Romley and former Wake County commission, state representative, and lieutenant governor candidate Linda Coleman.