As a fellow native Tar Heel, I want to give a hearty welcome to North Carolina U.S. Senate candidate Jim Neal, who joins The Bilerico Project as a contributor. He's making history as the first openly gay man to seek the office, and Jim plans to unseat the ineffective, unresponsive, rubber stamp for the Bush administration, Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole.
Jim is a Chapel Hill-based entrepreneur and proud single father, and he is up for the challenge of being a trailblazer. He's campaigning hard around the state -- and he's been well-received in large cities and small towns -- to show them why he's the best candidate to take Dole's seat.
While it's his first run for office, Jim is not a newcomer to politics. He was a national finance committee member of the Wes Clark for President and the Kerry-Edwards campaigns, and a national fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Erskine Bowles in 2004. You may recall that in 1998 John Edwards, who no previous political experience, ran and won election to the U.S. Senate here. It's a challenge, but can be done -- Dole is polling poorly. More below the fold.
One of the challenges he faces is the Democratic establishment inside the Beltway and the good-old-boy network -- and what they believe about NC and its ability to elect someone progressive, let alone openly gay. Voters need to be given the chance to decide which person will best represent them in Washington and not make the assumption that a candidate's sexual orientation is a deal-killer. With the neglect Tar Heels have experienced under the politically vulnerable MIA Senator Dole (she's under 50% approval), military families and textile workers who would vote Republican are ready to pull the lever for change and Jim Neal can provide that. There's a good chance to take this Purple state Blue.
I've met Jim (in fact, I can say he makes a mean pot of chili!), and over dinner we discussed the issues of concern that matter to all of us -- health care, the conflict in Iraq, politics-as-usual staleness in Washington, as well how we can move LGBT rights forward -- he's not interested in inching our way when it comes to basic civil liberties. He would represent us well.