The battle between Mary Norwood and Kasim Reed for LGBT votes in the Dec. 1 runoff has hit a fever pitch. A week that included back-to-back gay fundraisers ended with back-and-forth verbal sparring in a debate.
Oh yes, the fight is on.
Team Norwood has been on the offensive since she topped the field in the Nov. 3 election. She took 46 percent of the vote, but it wasn’t the 50 percent plus one vote needed to take the mayor’s office at City Hall. So LGBT supporters have been vocal about highlighting that Norwood backs same-sex marriage and Reed stops short by backing civil unions.
They did it again Wednesday at a rally and fundraiser that attracted a crowd of about 400 people to a Midtown gay bar. On Sunday, LGBT supporters say they raised $20,000 for Norwood at an invitation-only fundraiser.
But Team Reed, which hosted its own LGBT event Friday, fired back Sunday during a debate on Georgia Public Broadcasting. The campaign, which has long argued that Reed’s track record on backing LGBT issues in the state legislature outweighs Norwood’s support for gay marriage, accused the two-term city council member of not voting when an LGBT issue came before her in 2006.
“She should have stood with the [gay and lesbian community],” said Reed, who gave up his state Senate seat to run for mayor.
Norwood said she might have left the City Council chamber when the vote occurred, but didn’t do so on purpose.
“I take responsibility for that [missing the vote],” she said.
The flap is over a measure proposed by Anne Fauver, the outgoing lesbian rep from District 6, that bolstered the city’s domestic partner ordinance by allowing gay city workers to make their partners pension beneficiaries. The measure passed 11-0. Two council members were absent and two others—Fauver and Norwood—didn’t vote.
Team Reed says that means Norwood didn’t step up and support LGBT issues when she had the chance, while Reed cast many votes supportive of LGBT causes during his stint at the Gold Dome. Team Norwood says the resolution was part of the council’s “consent agenda,” a lengthy list of items voted upon at the same time with no discussion.
It’s no wonder the battle between the two camps over gay issues is so heated—the LGBT vote could swing the election.
And now, adding to its renewed clout and stronger voice, is the very real possibility that Atlanta’s gay community could be the swing vote that determines who’ll be the city’s next mayor. That’s because of two down-ticket races with gay candidates that are certain to spur droves of gay voters to the polls.
The District 6 Council race pits openly gay Alex Wan against community activist Liz Coyle, while the contest for House District 58 finds lesbian candidate Simone Bell opposing lawyer Asha Jackson. In those races, the straight candidates are making efforts to present themselves as pro-equality – and it was little surprise that both Norwood and Reed resumed their runoff campaigning by heading directly to District 6.
Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, predicts the gay vote will have a large influence on the mayoral election, even though statistics are a little hazy.
Another interesting twist to the race is this: Team Norwood has twice cried foul in the runoff. First, gay supporter Kyle Bailey—no stranger to the rough and tumble sport of politics—accused Team Reed of circulating rumors that his support for Norwood came only after the promise of money or a spot in her administration.
Team Reed quickly swatted down accusation with this memorable quip about Bailey: “The lady doth protest too much.”
On Saturday, Team Norwood used a similar line of attack in arguing that Reed backers have threatened her African-American supporters.
With advance voting already underway and a week left until Election Day II, there’s bound to be more gay fireworks in this race. After all, the race is a dead heat.