First-time candidate Jen Slipakoff is running for a state House seat in West Cobb for several reasons, but the initial motivation was to protect the rights of her transgender daughter and LGBTQ people across Georgia.
Look no further than the occupation she listed on the secretary of state’s elections website: “advocate.”
Slipakoff (top photo) served as co-president of PFLAG Atlanta and she was a member of the Atlanta Steering Committee for the Human Rights Campaign. Georgia Equality honored her for her advocacy work at their annual awards dinner in 2017. The Human Rights Campaign, Georgia Equality and Georgia Stonewall Democrats endorsed her.
It’s her work – and the honors she has received for it – that has led her opponent Ginny Ehrhart to label Slipakoff a one-issue candidate.
“Yes, my impetus for getting involved in politics definitely did stem from my advocacy work for the LGBTQ community,” Slipakoff said. “But it’s not the only thing that I stand for. I can multi-task. If I’m willing to fight for these controversial issues, I can certainly fight for things like healthcare, like equal pay for equal work, I can fight for improvements to traffic.”
“My platform speaks for itself and I’m willing to fight for anybody and any issues that are important to my constituents,” she added.
Ehrhart is running in District 36 to replace her retiring husband Earl Ehrhart, the longest-serving Republican in the House and its most outspoken anti-LGBTQ member. Rep. Ehrhart has helped gut an LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance in Atlanta, called the gay leader of a progressive group “a pansy,” punished Delta Air Lines for opposing an anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” bill, mocked transgender students from the House floor and called the gender-neutral pronouns in a Kennesaw State University pamphlets “fantasy language.”
Slipakoff thinks Ginny Ehrhart will carry on the anti-LGBTQ attacks of her husband.
“I know she will because she’s already started talking about it in the press,” Slipakoff said.
Ginny Ehrhart created controversy recently by telling the Marietta Daily Journal that transgender people demand “special rights” and shouldn’t receive them whether they identify “as a man or a moose.”
Slipakoff didn’t mince words in her reaction to the comments.
“To me, that’s a dog whistle for comparing the LGBTQ community to animals, and frankly I won’t stand for that,” she told Project Q.
Ginny Ehrhart also listed “ensure religious freedom” as a goal under the heading “protect our West Cobb values” on her campaign website.
Slipakoff said “religious freedom” bills, campus carry bills, and bills that protect the rights of college men accused of sexual assault – which Rep. Ehrhart spearheaded in the 2017 legislative session without success – are “a waste of time.”
“There are more important things to focus on in the legislature,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of other things that would benefit Georgians versus trying to discriminate.”
Slipakoff said that list of issues includes the cost of health insurance, an LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights bill and Medicaid expansion.
We reached out to Ginny Ehrhart’s campaign multiple times for an interview but did not receive a response.
If Slipakoff is able to pull out a win, she will do so by breaking a long streak. Rep. Ehrhart has represented the district for nearly 30 years, and the seat has been uncontested for a decade.
Slipakoff hopes to take advantage of changing demographics in Cobb. The county has long been a Republican stronghold, with the GOP nominee winning there by about 10 points in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. But Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in Cobb County in the 2016 election.
As of Sept. 30, Ehrhart raised $125,000 (including $12,000 she loaned her campaign), and had about $40,000 left on hand. Slipakoff raised $115,000 and had $70,000 on hand.
Photo courtesy Jen Slipakoff campaign