A first-time political candidate who was outspoken in his support of LGBT issues scored an upset win on Tuesday for a Georgia House seat that includes portions of DeKalb and Fulton.
Taylor Bennett, an attorney and former Georgia Tech quarterback, beat former Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis in the runoff, 54.53 percent to 45.47 percent. Bennett, a Democrat, placed first among three candidates in the July 14 election, topping Davis and another Republican. Davis raised nearly twice as much money as Bennett and received support from Gov. Nathan Deal and other powerful Republicans for his run in the conservative-leaning district.
Bennett thanked supporters in a Facebook post late Tuesday:
Thanks to all of our supporters, and the entire community, who made our victory possible.
This isn't about me; this is about us. This is about our entire community coming together for a better future.
Thank you for your support!
Bennett also said the win "inspired" him, according to the Chamblee Post:
Bennett said, “I’m deeply humbled and inspired by the support we received from the citizens of Brookhaven, Chamblee, and Sandy Springs tonight. We set out to run a campaign that connected with every voter and hear every issue. And in spite of our success tonight, I know that we fell short of that goal. I had a coach tell me once that when you’re successful, you can celebrate tonight, but the work begins anew tomorrow. I look forward to continuing that work tomorrow morning and as the State Representative to every single resident of House District 80.”
Bennett's win flips the District 80 seat from Republican to Democrat and shifts control of the Fulton House delegation to Democrats. But more importantly, it puts another LGBT ally in the state House to replace state Rep. Mike Jacobs, a gay-friendly Republican who was appointed to a state court judgeship.
Jacobs helped derail an anti-gay "religious freedom" bill earlier this year and Bennett made his opposition to the measure a central plank of his campaign. He also talked passionately about his mother, a lesbian, and voiced his support for a state hate crimes law and non-discrimination measure. (A limited non-discrimination bill went nowhere – again – during the legislative session earlier this year.)
“This is a time for me to step up and be a voice for this and go fight for something that you know is right. And you have to start somewhere, so that’s where we are," Bennett told the GA Voice in July.
Davis was reluctant to discuss LGBT issues during the campaign, including the "religious freedom" legislation that's sure to reappear in 2016.
The District 80 campaign split LGBT supporters. Georgia Equality backed Bennett, while Georgia Log Cabin Republicans backed Davis.