First openly gay can­di­date qual­i­fies for Athens may­oral race

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de­ter­min­ing how many cit­i­zens will reap its ben­e­fits; look­ing at the wider reach of the pol­icy; and en­sur­ing the pol­icy or de­ci­sion is part of an over­all strat­egy and not re­ac­tionary.

Knight said he spent the past 400 days meet­ing with ma­jor em­ploy­ers, spe­cial in­ter­est groups, churches and as many vot­ers as he could to hear their in­put on is­sues.

“All of those con­ver­sa­tions helped me re­al­ize even more that [what] we are do­ing now is not work­ing. Sta­tus quo and our cur­rent lo­cal gov­ern­ment struc­ture are fail­ing the peo­ple of Athens,” he said. “From day one, I have had my eyes locked on the fu­ture of Athens and de­vel­op­ing a vi­sion that will cre­ate a com­mu­nity where ev­ery citizen can thrive.”

Knight orig­i­nally planned to steer his may­oral platform away from so­cial is­sues, but re­cently he be­gan mak­ing clear state­ments about his stances. He told Ge­or­gia Voice he sup­ports adopt­ing a par­al­lel or­di­nance that im­poses a max­i­mum $75 fine for pos­ses­sion of up to one ounce of mar­i­juana, and said he would like to see a tax freeze for se­nior cit­i­zens ages 65 and older who face in­come re­stric­tions. Girtz’s platform also sup­ports a fine op­tion for low-level drug pos­ses­sion.

Other ma­jor points on Girtz’s platform in­clude ex­pand­ing in­fra­struc­ture and greenspace in down­town Athens to sup­port new and de­vel­op­ing busi­ness, and find­ing new ways to make Athens an area at­trac­tive to home­buy­ers, univer­sity grad­u­ates and larger firms.

Knight’s platform also sup­ports in­vest­ing in busi­ness dis­tricts and af­ford­able hous­ing, de­vel­op­ing part­ner­ships for work­force ed­u­ca­tion and fo­cus­ing on smart down­town de­vel­op­ment.

As the son of a Cuban im­mi­grant, Knight also has strong be­liefs on law en­force­ment of­fi­cials work­ing with un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants in the com­mu­nity.

“I would never en­cour­age an­other of­fi­cial to dis­obey the law or his le­gal obli­ga­tion. How­ever, we must only be do­ing what we are legally bound to do, and should never go out of our way to de­port Athe­ni­ans with mi­nor in­frac­tions, those who are stopped for traf­fic vi­o­la­tions and non­vi­o­lent of­fend­ers,” he said.

Knight also sup­ports mod­el­ing Athens-Clarke County’s anti-discrimination or­di­nance af­ter At­lanta’s Hu­man Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee.

“This com­mit­tee should be tasked with hear­ing and in­ves­ti­gat­ing com­plaints of discrimination and make rec­om­men­da­tions on how to re­solve such com­plaints,” he said. “From racial pro­fil­ing to re­li­gious discrimination, there is no place for hate in the city of Athens. We are open for busi­ness. We are not a city open for discrimination.”

Pro­gress­ing for­ward

“Athens is a city con­trolled by ‘con­ser­va­tive Democrats,’ although the ac­tual cit­i­zens are very pro­gres­sive,” said Ant­won Stephens, an openly gay for­mer may­oral can­di­date. “I sought to change that by cre­at­ing a unity platform that ad­dresses is­sues im­por­tant to all sides, while pro­mot­ing pro­gres­sive, con­ser­va­tive ideas that were both pro­gres­sive and fis­cally re­spon­si­ble.”

Stephens and Knight both made early en­trances into the may­oral race, though Stephens did not make qual­i­fy­ing due to health com­pli­ca­tions.

“Fall­ing ill with com­pli­ca­tions from cys­tic fi­bro­sis caused me to with­draw from the race and en­dorse my op­po­nent, Com­mis­sioner Kelly Girtz, who has the near­est views to those I hold,” Stephens said.

His fundrais­ing dol­lars will par­tially go to­ward Girtz’s cam­paign. Stephens said if Girtz wins, the rest of the money will be do­nated to po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions, non­prof­its and po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates with sim­i­lar views. Should Knight or Sims be the next mayor, Stephens said funds will carry over into the next elec­tion cy­cle.

As of Feb. 7, Stephens raised $102,396 for his cam­paign, far more than the other can­di­dates. Girtz brought in $25,184 by that date, and Knight raised $20,498. Ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent avail­able data for Sims, his cam­paign re­ported $3,900 in con­tri­bu­tions as of Jan. 30.

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