Stacey Abrams has quietly stocked her gubernatorial campaign team with more LGBTQ members than any other major party campaign in Georgia in memory.
Campaign manager Lauren Groh Wargo, who is a lesbian, said that it’s important for Abrams' team to reflect the diversity of the state.
“Our team really reflects that in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation and gender identity,” she told Project Q Atlanta. “Having all of those different experiences is critical to meeting voters where they are, not judging them and coming with our own diverse experiences.”
Other LGBTQ members of Abrams’ campaign team include Glen Paul Freedman, operations and compliance director; Jessica Byrd, chief of staff; Mia Arreguin, digital director; Dom Leon-Davis, deputy digital director; Justin Nisley, deputy director of strategic communications; Ernie Britt, digital manager; Melody Oliphant, call time manager; Jane Giang, filmmaker; and Andre Fields, special assistant.
Arreguin, a queer Latina immigrant, lived in Washington, D.C. but was looking to return to her native Georgia. She found it in the Abrams campaign.
“For me, being someone who's brown and also queer, I just knew there was so much I could do in my state that would make it safe for my family,” she said. “I knew that the gubernatorial race was coming up and I needed a governor who was an authentic ally.”
Arreguin echoed Wargo’s thoughts on the makeup of the campaign team.
“Starting from the top, our goal for the campaign is to have an authentic connection with all of our supporters, so we have to empathize with and represent the community we’re trying to represent,” she said. “That’s a pretty obvious need to have internally, and you have to have a diverse group of people making decisions from inside the campaign if we really want those values to be represented in our work throughout.”
Arreguin came on as a filmmaker and quickly moved up to digital director and, as she put it, “built this whole beautiful team which is all brown and black and mostly LGBTQ.”
One of those team members is Leon-Davis, the deputy digital director.
“When I look at [former House Minority] Leader Abrams, I see my mom a lot,” he said. “I see a strong independent, intelligent black woman. And someone who has had to fight for everything she’s gotten despite having barriers put in place. And I want to be a part of making history.”
Leon-Davis said it's important for LGBTQ people to have a seat at the table, especially considering the current political climate and attacks on LGBTQ rights.
“People conflate LGBTQ rights and LGBTQ issues and say we only care about marriage,” he said. “Medicaid expansion is hyper important, access to quality education for our kids — as LGBTQ families are fighting to have kids. These issues are important to us. It’s important that we have elected leaders that carry our values and that our issues are heard.”
“As an LGBTQ person of color, it’s hyper important for me to have that intersectional lens on the work that we do, because there’s so many different ways that these issues affect LGBTQ people and people of color. It’s important to me to say, ‘Let’s look at this a different way,’” Leon-Davis added.
Brian Kemp's campaign did not respond to Project Q’s request for comment about LGBTQ representation on the Republican's campaign team. Abrams and Kemp face off in the governor's race on Nov. 6.
Abrams will speak at Atlanta Pride on Saturday at 6:45 p.m. on the Coca-Cola Main Stage in Piedmont Park. It is the first time a gubernatorial candidate from a major party will speak at Atlanta Pride.
Abrams, lieutenant governor candidate Sarah Riggs Amico, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue and LGBTQ supporters will march together in the Atlanta Pride parade on Sunday at noon.
UPDATE | Abrams issued a statement to Project Q after this story was published talking about the diversity of her staff.
Allyship requires lifting up voices from every community. I strive to ensure that my campaign staff reflects the diversity of our state — and thus have hired LGBTQ Georgians, immigrants, women and people of color for critical positions on the campaign. As Governor, I will remain committed to hiring a diverse staff and making appointments to ensure that Georgians from all walks of life can see a government that reflects their priorities.
Abrams' press secretary Caitlin Highland said there are approximately 40 campaign staff members, and one-third of them identify as LGBTQ.