Gay candidates seek seats in Ga. General Assembly
LGBT voters urged to help block GOP dominance in state legislature
Five openly gay candidates seek seats in the Georgia General Assembly in the Nov. 6 election, including three lesbian incumbents and two gay men challenging GOP state lawmakers. Two other known gay candidates are also on the ballot in Georgia, running for state Public Service Commission and Floyd County Commission.
In addition, Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBT political group, targets six races with gay-friendly Democratic candidates to try to keep Republicans from gaining a constitutional majority in the state legislature, which would allow them to put constitutional amendments on the ballot without needing any votes from Democrats.
Also, the state Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA), which would make it illegal to fire state workers based on sexual orientation and gender identity, would be in danger of stalling. In the past session it stayed stuck in the House Judiciary Committee.
“There is a lot at stake — the presidential race, a constitutional majority and sponsors for FEPA,” Georgia Equality lobbyist Cathy Woolard has said of the upcoming election.
Openly gay candidates
When Nov. 7 rolls around, there will be at least two openly gay people serving under the Gold Dome.
State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) has no opposition and will be reelected to House District 85. The first openly LGBT person elected to the Georgia legislature, Drenner has held onto her post since she was first elected in 2000.
State Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) battled a crowded field in the Democratic primary, but also has no opposition in the general election and will win her first full term in House District 60 after winning a special election in early 2012.
State Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta), the third openly lesbian member of the Georgia House, faces Republican challenger Earl Cooper in the redrawn House District 58.
Interestingly, Cooper’s Facebook page displays a photo of him with Vice President Joe Biden and also a photo with First Lady Michelle Obama and wearing an Obama ‘08 pin.
Bell’s 2009 election made her the first openly lesbian African-American state lawmaker in the country. She faced a tough Democratic primary this year, beating fellow Democratic Rep. Ralph Long after Republicans drew the two incumbents into the same new district.
Two openly gay men are also vying for seats in the General Assembly — Timothy Swiney of Lawrenceville is seeking state office for the first time while Tim Riley of Athens is making a fourth run.
Swiney, a Democrat, is hoping to unseat Republican incumbent Rep. Valerie Clark in House District 101. Swiney is endorsed by the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats and said he would strongly advocate for the Fair Employment Practices Act.
Riley is again running for the state Senate against Republican incumbent Frank Ginn for Senate District 47. Riley also supports FEPA, saying he would work to ensure all people are treated fairly in the workplace.
No openly gay man has been elected to the state legislature. State Rep. Rashad Taylor (D-Atlanta) lost to incumbent Pat Gardner (DAtlanta) in the July primary. Taylor came out as gay after already being in office.
Also on the Nov. 6 ballot, Brad Ploeger, who is gay, seeks a seat on the state Public Service
Georgia Equality’s efforts to get out the LGBT vote included the LGBT political group’s Gold Dome float in the Atlanta Pride parade; other strategies include direct mail, phone banking and social media. (Photo by Bo Shell)