DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Two openly transgender people are running for seats on the North Carolina Senate for the first time.
While democrats Gray Ellis and Angela Bridgman are optimistic, they say there are challenges running in a state that passed House Bill 2.
“We are the only minority group that’s never had a seat in that body. Our government works best when it looks like all the citizens in our state, not just some,” said Bridgman.
Bridgman is running for a seat in Senate District 18 in Wake County. Ellis is vying for the spot vacated by Sen. Floyd McKissick in Senate District 20 in Durham.
Ellis, a North Carolina native, has practiced family law in Durham for 18 years.
“I openly transitioned when I was 40-years-old,” said Ellis. “My community rallied around me. They protected me. They made sure that I continued to thrive. I know mine is an unusual experience. I’m grateful for that, but I’m heartbroken that that is not the normal experience.”
Bridgman, who lives in Wendell, is taking a leave of absence as a Wake County Democratic Party precinct chair.
She said the passage of HB2 didn’t impact her because she’s post-operative, but it reminded her of her time as a college student in Kentucky in 1998 when she was told she could only use men’s restrooms.
HB2, also known as the “bathroom bill,” requires people to use bathrooms in government buildings and schools that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate. Most of the bill was overturned in 2017.
“I was forced to choose between higher education and my personal safety. I chose my safety,” said Bridgman. “When I saw HB2 coming, I thought, ‘I can’t be silent when transgender students today may be forced to make the horrible choice that I had to make.'”
Bridgman said HB2 was one of the reasons she wanted to run for office. Her platform includes increasing access to affordable healthcare and rural broadband expansion.
“I see this as nothing short of the rural electrification of our century,” she said.
Ellis’ platform includes Medicare expansion and affordable housing. He’s also passionate about mental health reform. He worked as a juvenile probation officer in Wake County.
Ellis called HB2 “horrifying,” but felt it encouraged people to take a stand. He hopes his campaign will allow him to stand for those who feel under-represented.
“Everyone deserves a seat at the table, and this is an opportunity for Durham and North Carolina to ensure that another disenfranchised group has a voice and actually has a seat at the table,” said Ellis.
Also running in the 20th district are democrats Natalie Murdock and Pierce Freelon.
In the 18th district, Bridgman faces democrat Sarah Crawford, of Raleigh. Republicans Scott McKaig, of Wake Forest, and Larry Norman, of Louisburg, are also running.
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