Gay can­di­dates seek seats in Ga. Gen­eral As­sem­bly

LGBT vot­ers urged to help block GOP dom­i­nance in state leg­is­la­ture

GA Voice - - News - By Dyana Bagby dbagby@the­

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)

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