There’s seemingly a lot to like about N.C. Rep. Charles Graham, who announced yesterday in a powerful video (watch below) that he’s running for Congress to represent North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District in the eastern part of the state. 

The Robeson County Democrat spent his early career assisting children with special needs and now owns a companion home-health company that helps adults with disabilities live independently. A Lumbee American Indian, Graham has strong roots in his community and has advocated for his people in the state House for six terms, securing access to VA benefits for veterans and championing the creation of an American Indian Heritage Commission, for which he filed a bill earlier this year, to preserve and promote Indian culture. 

But in 2016, Graham was one of 11 Democrats to vote for HB 2, the notorious “bathroom bill” that overturned and banned local statutes protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and prohibited transgender people from using bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity in public schools and government buildings.

HB 2 put North Carolina on the map in the very worst way possible, and quickly ushered in an economic backlash on top of the personal, unforgivable damage it did to members of the LGBTQ community.

After the vote, we asked all the state Democrats who voted in favor of HB 2 why they voted that way. Graham’s answer—and to his credit, he did try to answer—wasn’t satisfactory at the time and seemed to belie a misunderstanding of what the bill actually accomplished. 

We reached out again to Graham to answer, with the benefit of hindsight, for his vote. He hasn’t responded but he did post this statement on his website:

It seems that Graham, who voted in favor of repealing HB 2 in 2017, has recognized his errant vote on the bathroom bill, or that his thoughts on LGBTQ civil rights and protections have evolved. Hopefully, if elected to Congress, he’ll champion the rights of LGBTQ people in North Carolina, too, while there’s currently no hope of that with hard-right crusader congressman Dan Bishop in the office. 

It’s not for us to say whether that will be good enough, and several other votes, including early votes in favor of this year’s anti-protest bill and an anti-abortion bill, are troubling, as well.

Graham needs to be clear about his values and what he believes in. We’re looking forward to learning more about his campaign. 

This story has been updated from an earlier version. 


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