Metro Weekly

Married lesbian minister will challenge Rep. Madison Cawthorn in 2022

Buncombe County Commissioner Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara announces her entry into the 11th Congressional District race

Madison Cawthorn, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara
Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who is challenging Madison Cawthorn – Photo: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara for Congress.

A married lesbian minister and county commissioner in North Carolina has announced she will run against first-term U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, a Trump acolyte, in 2022.

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, of Asheville, a Buncombe County commissioner and the executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, made the announcement on Wednesday in a video posted to YouTube.

Beach-Ferrara has been particularly critical of Cawthorn, current representative for the state’s 11th Congressional District, having previously called on him to resign after he spoke to supporters of former President Donald Trump at a rally alleging that the 2020 election was marred by widespread fraud.

That rally culminated in attendees laying siege to the U.S. Capitol, rioting, looting, threatening to kill lawmakers, and attacking police in an attempt to delay certification of the results and President Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race.

“Some people will say a gay woman who’s a Christian minister just can’t get elected in the South. Not to mention, she’s a Democrat. But I say an insurrectionist who flirts with Nazis, fires up a violent crowd to attack our democracy, well he shouldn’t get reelected anywhere,” Beach-Ferrara says in the video, in reference to Cawthorn’s support of the Capitol rioters.

Beach-Ferrara faces an uphill climb in the 11th Congressional District, which once used to be full of Democratic voters. As political realignment has occurred, and rural and white working-class voters have shifted their allegiances to the Republican Party, the district has become hostile territory for most Democrats, save the “blue” city of Asheville, which has a sizable LGBTQ population.

The Democratic nominee in 2020, retired Air Force Col. Moe Davis, ended up losing to Cawthorn by about 12 percentage points.

Additionally, following reapportionment, the district will have to be redrawn again by the Republican-dominated General Assembly, meaning it wouldn’t be shocking to see Republicans gerrymander the district and draw a district map that omits much of the Democratic-leaning Asheville.

Republicans previously did this in 2010, but were forced by the courts, following years of lawsuits, to redraw “fairer” or more compact districts ahead of the 2020 elections.

Beach-Ferrara is the first candidate to announce a 2022 challenge to Cawthorn, who has earned celebrity-style praise and glowing profiles in the press, largely due to his telegenic personality, his embrace of populist rhetoric (though not so much populist policies), and devotion to Donald Trump.

Elected in her own right to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, Beach-Ferrara has advocated for expanding early childhood educational opportunities, opioid epidemic reduction strategies, and resolutions encouraging local members of the General Assembly to ban conversion therapy in the Tar Heel State, according to the Asheville Citizen Times.

As the executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, she has lobbied against problematic bills targeting the LGBTQ community in various Southern states, and supported legal challenges to laws seeking to permit discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, such as North Carolina’s controversial HB 2 law, which has been colloquially referred to  as the “bathroom bill.” That law has since been repealed.

On March 2, the night before her announcement, Beach-Ferrara submitted a draft of a local nondiscrimination ordinance to prohibit employers and managers of public venues from discrimination based on a number of characteristics, including gender identity and sexual orientation.

For the past four years, localities in North Carolina were expressly prohibited from passing nondiscrimination ordinances under a “compromise” bill that repealed HB 2 but kept some of its more problematic aspects, including requiring the General Assembly, going forward, to approve any changes in local laws governing restroom or changing room facilities. 

Beach-Ferrara said she introduced the ordinance so that LGBTQ youths in the county would be able to grow up “hearing a message that they’re equal, that they’re valued.”

Touting her ordination as a minister and her advocacy on behalf of same-sex marriage through the Campaign for Southern Equality, Beach-Ferrara says in her announcement video that she believes “love wins everywhere, and every time,” and touts her ability to work across party and ideological lines with her fellow commissioners. 

“Right now, it can feel like the world is pulling us apart. A deadly virus keeping us separate. And political divisions that feel impossible to bridge. And yeah, we need a really big bridge!” she says in the video. “But I’ve seen what’s possible when we make room at the table for everyone. That’s why I choose to keep an open heart and keep pushing for progress, rather than backing down.

“So with all due respect to the skeptics, this BBQ-loving, football-watching, proud Southern mom of three is running for Congress,” she concludes. “And you’d better believe I’m running to win.”

See Beach-Ferrara’s announcement video below:

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