Michelle Kennedy was elected to an at-large seat on the Greensboro city council this week, becoming the city’s first openly gay member of the city council. One of a number of progressive first-time candidates, Kennedy will be part of the first city council to include no white male members. (Photo by Lauren Barber, Triad City Beat)
There were bigger, more expensive and more contentious local elections in Raleigh and Charlotte – but this week’s results in the state’s third largest city were historic on a number of levels.
Greensboro voters elected their first openly gay member of the city council in Michelle Kennedy, one of a number of progressive first-time candidates we profiled at N.C. Policy Watch over the summer.
Kennedy will be part of another first – a Greensboro City Council without a single white male member.
With eight women – three black, five white – and one black man, it will be a very different council.
Allen Johnson, opinions editor at Greensboro’s daily News & Record newspaper, thinks that’s likely to be a good thing.
If empirical data is any indication, they may do a better job than us guys.
“According to decades of data from around the world, The New York Times reported in a 2016 story, “Women govern differently than men do in some important ways. They tend to be more collaborative and bipartisan.”
In a study of women in Congress, the American Journal of Political Science found that they tend to sponsor and co-sponsor more bills than their male counterparts – and to bring 9 percent more in federal funding to their home districts.
And while the Times story points out that women pass fewer bills, “women also have advantages in governing — and the biggest gender differences appear during behind-the-scenes work.”
A variety of studies, the Times reports, “have found the biggest gender differences appear during behind-the-scenes work.
That research has found “that women interrupt less (but are interrupted more), pay closer attention to other people’s nonverbal cues and use a more democratic leadership style compared with men’s more autocratic style. The result is that women build coalitions and reach consensus more quickly, researchers say.
“Women share their power more; men guard their power,” Michael A. Genovese, director of the Institute for Leadership Studies at Loyola Marymount University, told the Times.
Greensboro City Council elections are non-partisan, but the new council will be composed entirely of registered Democrats ranging from center left to strongly progressive. That’s appears to be another first, at least in living memory, even in a reliably blue city.
The council’s only remaining Republican, Tony Wilkins, was ousted by progressive Democrat Tammi Thurm, by a decisive ten points.
Kennedy was elected at-large – which is to say, by voters from the entire city rather than a particular district where she may have been able to count on an ideologically friendly cache of voters in one area.
She told area weekly Triad City Beat the election night message was pretty clear.
“I think this has been a clear message Greensboro is ready for new leadership that better reflects the values of the community,” said Kennedy, who wore a UE Local 150 Greensboro City Workers Union T-shirt as she celebrated in the Old County Courthouse with other victorious candidates.
Thanks to a change in election laws this week’s victors will also serve four year terms.
One of the most progressive city councils in the city’s history, composed entirely of Democrats and with no white men, locked in for four years.
It is safe to say this was not the result Sen. Trudy Wade, formerly one of Greensboro’s most conservative city council members, was looking to achieve when she set out to change the city’s electoral maps and voting laws.
But newly elected council members say the firestorm that created – a long with a lot of push back on a number of actions of the General Assembly in Raleigh – likely fueled this week’s results.