Openly gay Brookhaven man to run for state House District 80

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district bal­anced it­self out. The rep­re­sen­ta­tive be­fore Ben­nett was elected as a Demo­crat and switched par­ties dur­ing his time in of­fice, Wil­son said.

“Any­body who wants to run for of­fice in District 80 can’t be a wack job on ei­ther side. It is the most mod­er­ate district in the state,” Ben­nett said. “District 80 won’t tol­er­ate any­one who’s crazy. Be very aware that you can’t de­vi­ate from the mid­dle line.”

He plans to sup­port Wil­son “whole­heart­edly, 100 per­cent” in the 2018 race be­cause of his aware­ness of the political cli­mate. Ben­nett said the pres­i­dent’s abil­ity to em­power peo­ple to speak openly against mi­nori­ties and get away with it should not be tol­er­ated, and said it was nec­es­sary to have elected of­fi­cials at all lev­els stand up to that be­hav­ior.

“That is a huge gap in lead­er­ship, in my opin­ion, and that is some­thing that our cur- rent state rep­re­sen­ta­tive in District 80 doesn’t have. That’s why I think [Wil­son] will be a won­der­ful can­di­date,” Ben­nett said. “Be­ing a gay man, it’s ex­cit­ing that he’s step­ping into the pub­lic world to run for of­fice. It’s a very scary thing for any­one to do.”

Pro­gres­sive rep­re­sen­ta­tion in a mod­er­ate district

“There’s a huge void in the South with so­cially pro­gres­sive leg­is­la­tion,” Ben­nett said. “When you … get to the un­der­belly of how preva­lent dis­crim­i­na­tion still is, you un­der­stand how im­por­tant it is that we have peo­ple in of­fice who grasp those con­cepts and move that leg­is­la­tion through, and say to the peo­ple of Ge­or­gia that we won’t tol­er­ate that. I think Matt Wil­son to­tally un­der­stands that. … I think that’s some­thing that dif­fer­en­ti­ates him from his op­po­nent in this race.” Wil­son’s op­po­nent, how­ever, dis­agrees. Han­son plans to bring up a re­vised “brunch bill” that al­lows restau­rants to serve al­co­hol be­fore noon, and sup­port the over­hauled state adop­tion code, but her mag­num opus in the 2018 ses­sion may be the hate crimes bill she in­tro­duced at a press con­fer­ence on Jan. 3.

“I’m work­ing on it my­self since I went into ses­sion, and com­par­ing statutes that other states have, Ge­or­gia is only one of five states that does not have a hate crimes statute on the books. I think that is ut­terly ridicu­lous for the state that we are, given that we are an eco­nomic en­gine and we see our­selves be­ing a more pro­gres­sive state,” she said. “I strug­gle with why a hate crimes statute is even per­ceived to be a par­ti­san is­sue.”

Wil­son ap­pears to take Han­son’s com­ments with a grain of salt.

“Now that we’re in an elec­tion year, her record is go­ing to be­come a lot more pro­gres­sive,” he said. “If you look at her record last year, I don’t think you’ll find that she’s the pro­gres­sive rep­re­sen­ta­tive that our mod­er­ate district de­serves.”

Reach­ing the vot­ers

Ben­nett said in or­der for ei­ther can­di­date to get vot­ers’ sup­port, they’ll need to be gen­uine. For Wil­son, that means talk­ing about how the leg­is­la­tion he’s against could af­fect him­self and other Ge­or­gians.

“As a gay man and an openly gay can­di­date, I’ve been af­fected by those is­sues and I’m ready to stand up against the Repub­li­cans and fight on the is­sues that im­pact us day to day,” Wil­son said.

He doesn’t have a leg­isla­tive record to show vot­ers like Han­son does. But he’s ready to share his ex­pe­ri­ences and how they af­fect the is­sues he’s pas­sion­ate about, like teach­ing at a Ti­tle I school, work­ing on a statewide cam­paign, lob­by­ing leg­is­la­tors against re­li­gious ex­emp­tions bills and be­ing cho­sen to rep­re­sent his clients at vul­ner­a­ble times in their lives.

“It also shows me how in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant our civil jus­tice sys­tem is and how, when law­mak­ers dis­cuss chang­ing par­tic­u­lar as­pects of our civil jus­tice sys­tem, I un­der­stand the im­pact it has on ev­ery­day Ge­or­gians,” Wil­son said. “For most of the vot­ers, those res­onate more than a vot­ing record.”

Jan­uary 5, 2018

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