LGBT Ge­or­gia del­e­gates head­ing to Demo­cratic con­ven­tion

Ge­or­gia GOP lags in di­ver­sity of del­e­ga­tion

GA Voice - - Georgia News - By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS psaun­ders@the­gavoice.com

At least 12 LGBT Ge­or­gians will be part of the state’s 117-mem­ber del­e­ga­tion head­ing to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion on July 25-28 in Philadel­phia. The Ge­or­gia Demo­cratic Party claims this is dou­ble the amount of LGBT del­e­gates they sent to the 2012 con­ven­tion in Char­lotte.

Among the con­tin­gent go­ing to Philadel­phia who self-iden­tify as LGBT is Hil­lary Clin­ton sup­porter James Dustin Baker of Athens (who is mak­ing his sec­ond trip as a del­e­gate af­ter go­ing in 2012) and Bernie San­ders sup­port­ers Michael David Smith of Colum­bus, Khalid Ka­mau of At­lanta (an or­ga­nizer for the At­lanta chap­ter of Black Lives Mat­ter), and Javier Brown of At­lanta (leg­isla­tive as­sis­tant to state Sen. Vin­cent Fort [D-At­lanta] and state Sen. Curt Thomp­son [D-Tucker]). Ge­or­gia Demo­cratic Party spokesman Michael Smith also iden­ti­fies as LGBT and will be a con­ven­tion page.

The preva­lence of LGBT del­e­gates is a re­sult of af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion goals set by the Ge­or­gia Demo­cratic Party that cov­ered LGBT in­di­vid­u­als, African-Amer­i­cans, His­pan­ics, Na­tive Amer­i­cans, Asian-Amer­i­cans and Pa­cific Is­lan­ders, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and youth (de­fined by the party in this in­stance as be­ing 36 years of age or younger). GOP spokesman Ryan Ma­honey con­firmed to Ge­or­gia Voice that the Repub­li­can Party of Ge­or­gia set no such af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion goals, and there don’t ap­pear to be any self-iden­ti­fied LGBT in­di­vid­u­als among the 76 Ge­or­gia del­e­gates go­ing to the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion on July 18-21 in Cleve­land.

“Hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to wit­ness his­tory is in­de­scrib­able, and there are mo­ments where it’s a lit­tle over­whelm­ing,” Smith said of be­ing named a del­e­gate. “It’s not lost on me that I and my fel­low LGBTQ del­e­gates are the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of decades’ worth of bat­tles fought by the gen­er­a­tions that came be­fore us. Their work is the rea­son why we have the priv­i­lege of rep­re­sent­ing our state in a wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment, and in an open and hon­est man­ner. I’m proud of my party—the party of in­clu­sive­ness and di­ver­sity and equal­ity. It’s just such a shame that the folks headed to the GOP con­ven­tion in Cleve­land prob­a­bly won’t ex­pe­ri­ence that kind of em­brace.”

Ma­honey did not re­spond by press time to re­ply to Smith’s com­ments.

Clin­ton racks up most of Ge­or­gia del­e­gates

Of the 117 Ge­or­gia del­e­gates to the Demo­cratic con­ven­tion, 102 are pledged del­e­gates. Those 102 in­clude 67 elected at April cau­cuses in each con­gres­sional dis­trict, 13 state and lo­cal lead­ers and of­fice­hold­ers, and 22 at-large del­e­gates that were elected by the state party com­mit­tee last month. All have signed pledges to sup­port ei­ther Clin­ton or San­ders—the for­mer Sec­re­tary of State racked up 73 pledged del­e­gates from Ge­or­gia to the Ver­mont se­na­tor’s 29 on the March 1 pres­i­den­tial pri­mary.

The re­main­ing 15 are su­perdel­e­gates— Demo­cratic Party in­sid­ers who can sup­port which­ever can­di­date they choose, but those 15 go­ing to Philadel­phia are largely re­ported to be lin­ing up be­hind Clin­ton.

San­ders del­e­gate fights for min­i­mum wage increase

Ka­mau, who iden­ti­fies as bi­sex­ual, is one of the six del­e­gates from Ge­or­gia’s 13th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict and the only San­ders sup­porter in the bunch.

“I think at some point I just re­al­ized del­e­gates are real peo­ple and that I could be one of them, so I in­ves­ti­gated the process,” he says of his path to Philadel­phia. “Every step of the process just got me more en­gaged.”

Ka­mau ac­knowl­edges that there are some del­e­gates go­ing to the con­ven­tion who will dis­rupt or do any­thing they can to make San­ders the nom­i­nee, a no­tion Ka­mau calls “dan­ger­ous.”

“One is I think it’s not an ef­fec­tive strat­egy. Hil­lary is prob­a­bly go­ing to win on the first bal­lot. And part of this ‘Bernie or bust’ cam­paign is try­ing to con­vince su­perdel­e­gates to switch and that’s not go­ing to hap­pen,” he says. “And the more im­por­tant, im­pact­ful rea­son is that by do­ing that you alien­ate the Hil­lary Clin­ton del­e­gates and you spend all of your po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal on this im­pos­si­ble goal when there is a very real goal in play specif­i­cally on the $15 min­i­mum wage.”

A draft of the party plat­form re­leased on July 1 in­cludes a call for rais­ing the min­i­mum wage to “at least $15 an hour.” That draft will go to the full Plat­form Com­mit­tee for a meet­ing in Or­lando on July 8-9, with a locked-in party plat­form pub­lished be­fore the con­ven­tion and rat­i­fied in Philadel­phia.

Ka­mau will be in Or­lando for that meet­ing, where he plans to push for that increase of the min­i­mum wage and other is­sues of im­por­tance to San­ders sup­port­ers. But he says it’s not just be­cause it’s some­thing he sup­ports, it’s about Clin­ton be­ing ef­fec­tive should she win the pres­i­dency.

“The only way that Democrats can take back con­trol of Congress is by keep­ing that 2008 Obama coali­tion to­gether, and a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of that are Berniecrats. And they’re not go­ing to show up at the polls if there’s noth­ing in the plat­form for them to show up for. Some won’t show up at all if Bernie’s not the nom­i­nee, but the ma­jor­ity of them will show up if they be­lieve that Hil­lary is go­ing to fight for a $15 min­i­mum wage and maybe not uni­ver­sal health care but uni­ver­sal child care. You have to give peo­ple some­thing to stay en­gaged with the process. That is my en­tire goal as a del­e­gate.”

“I’m proud of my party—the party of in­clu­sive­ness and di­ver­sity and equal­ity. It’s just such a shame that the folks headed to the GOP con­ven­tion in Cleve­land prob­a­bly won’t ex­pe­ri­ence that kind of em­brace.” —Ge­or­gia Demo­cratic Party spokesman Michael Smith, who has been named a con­ven­tion page

(File pho­tos)

Sup­port­ers of Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders (l) and for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (r) will meet for the 2016 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion later this month.

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