A gay Atlanta real estate agent is launching a campaign for the Atlanta City Council, hoping to continue a 20-year tradition of an LGBT person filling the District 6 post.
Kirk Rich confirmed that he's a candidate for the seat, which is being vacated by City Council member Alex Wan. The two-term incumbent announced Wednesday that he's instead running for City Council president.
With a background in real estate, and work as a board member of Invest Atlanta, Rich said his primary focus is smarter development for Atlanta.
“I’ve got the right skillset, and kind of a needed skillset that’s kind of been lacking on the council,” Rich said. “To help, to be a partner, and, again, really understand a lot of the development issues when it comes to real estate.”
Rich appears to be the only announced candidate so far in the District 6 race. The district includes portions of Midtown, Ansley Park, Morningside, Virginia-Highland and Cheshire Bridge Road, running north to the city’s borders with Brookhaven and Buckhead.
District 2, represented by City Council member Kwanza Hall, now covers more of Midtown than District 6. But Wan's district has long been considered the LGBT seat on city council and has provided the council with its only LGBT member for 20 years. Cathy Woolard became the state's first openly LGBT elected official when she won the District 6 seat in 1997. Anne Fauver, a lesbian, won in 2001 and served two terms. Wan won a crowded race in 2009 and easily nabbed a second term in 2013.
Rich operates Rich Real Estate Services in Duluth. Like Wan, he has been involved with Jerusalem House, which provides housing to people with HIV. He currently serves on the Invest Atlanta board, which oversees the Beltline and other economic development projects in Atlanta.
"The way I tell people, I am an incredibly skilled, strong candidate who happens to be gay, but I am happy to be gay," Rich said.
A relative newcomer to politics, Rich said the turnover at City Hall in elections this November – with many candidates leaving their seats to pursue higher office – creates an opportunity for new voices to step forward.
“It’s exciting. New mayor, new council president, a lot of new council people. So there’s a lot of opportunity to really have a new imprint,” Rich said.
In 2013, a plan to push sexually-oriented businesses off Cheshire Bridge sparked a battle between Wan, who proposed the initiative, and some LGBT people who opposed the effort. Since, development projects have forced changed along the corridor.
Rich said he sees this as somewhat of a natural evolution, noting that Atlanta doesn't have a true “entertainment district" like some other cities.
“There’s a point where you can’t justify a low density club of any kind on dirt that’s super expensive. That’s why you’ve seen several [clubs] be shut down. But what they are putting back isn’t another building that’s the same size. It’s a huge, massive, multi-unit residential development or mixed use development,” Rich said.
Rich will formally announce his candidacy in the coming weeks.
Political pundits hinted that Kevin Perry, the gay executive director of the Georgia Beverage Association who lobbies at the State Capitol, would enter the race. But Perry told Project Q Atlanta that he has decided against a campaign.
“I am humbled by the encouragement of neighbors and friends in District 6; however, I have decided against a run for City Council in 2017. I look forward to continued involvement with Piedmont Heights and the City of Atlanta,” Perry said.