3 LGBT candidates win, 3 others in runoffs across Atlanta

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Three LGBT candidates won on Tuesday, giving Georgia its only transgender City Council member, while three others – Keisha Waites, Alex Wan and De’Andre Pickett – face runoffs next month.

Two of the winners were elected to the Doraville City Council – Joseph Geierman and Stephe Koontz, who will become the council’s first-ever transgender member and the only transgender elected official in Georgia. Liz Ordiales, a lesbian, was elected mayor of Hiawassee.

Some 16 LGBT candidates faced voters across North Georgia on Tuesday.

In two high-profile races, LGBT candidates are facing runoffs on Dec. 5 – Waites for Fulton County Commission chair and Wan for Atlanta City Council president.

Pickett also faces a runoff in District 60, which is the state House seat Waites gave up to run for the Fulton office.

In other races, LGBT candidates lost campaigns for Atlanta mayor – Cathy Woolard placed third – state Senate, Fulton County Commission and Atlanta City Council. 

A rundown of the 16 LGBT candidates and their races:


Liliana Bakhtiari, Atlanta City Council District 5


Bakhtiari missed an upset win over four-term incumbent City Council member Natalyn Archibong by 252 votes. Bakhtiari won in the portion of the district in Fulton County, 53.51% to 46.49%, but she lost in DeKalb County 53.22% to 46.78%. Overall, Archibong received 5,003 votes to 4,751 for Bakhtiari

“The feedback we have already gotten, combined with everything we heard while considering the run, makes me realize this is absolutely the right thing to do. It's very easy to sit on the sidelines and judge. It's much harder to serve from the inside and it forces you to be in the spotlight and be accountable and practice what you preach,” Bakhtiari told Project Q Atlanta in March.

Bakhtiari was endorsed by Georgia Equality, Georgia Stonewall Democrats and the Victory Fund.


Keith Dejesus, State Senate District 39


Dejesus competed in a crowded five-person field to fill the unexpired term in District 39 and placed fourth. The seat was left open when Vincent Fort, a longtime state lawmaker and vocal support of LGBT and progressive causes, resigned to run for Atlanta mayor.

Nikema Williams and Linda Pritchett will face one another in a December runoff. Dejesus received 10.90% of the vote.

In 2016, Dejesus lost a race for the state House and placed third in three-way race.


Joseph Geierman, Doraville City Council


Geierman – a longtime resident and civic activist in Doraville – easily won the District 2 post and means the return of an LGBT council member in the city for the first time since 2013.

Geierman faced Tim Synder and Peaches Toppin the race. He won 58% of the vote, while Snyder took 35% and Peaches Toppin received 7%.

“I’m running because a council seat opened up, and I want voters to have a candidate in the race who supports a more progressive vision for Doraville’s future. There is a lot happening in the city right now, and good leadership is critical for our continued success,” Geierman told Project Q Atlanta in September.

Georgia Equality endorsed Geierman.


Laban King, Atlanta mayor


King, an entrepreneur and real estate investor, stepped into a crowded mayor's race earlier this year but did little fundraising or campaigning outside of candidate forums. He placed last in a 12-person race and did not receive a single vote, according to election results.

“My number one goal as the mayor of Atlanta is to make Atlanta the birthplace of the new American dream,” King told Project Q Atlanta in March. “Atlanta is going to be the place in which we’re going to provide the resources for you to be able to have your dream.”


Stephe Koontz, Doraville City Council


Thanks to a handful of absentee ballots, Koontz won the District 3 race, defeating Lee Flier by six votes.

Without the absentee ballots, Flier would have won with four votes – 328 to 324, according to the AJC.

Koontz, a small business owner and church administrator, will become the city's first-ever transgender elected official and the only one in Georgia.

“I realized that now is a pivotal point for the future of the city. I have been involved in the political community here for almost 20 years, but I felt this was the right time to jump in and run for a city council seat,” Koontz told Project Q Atlanta in September.

Georgia Equality endorsed Koontz.

On Wednesday, Koontz thanked supporters for sticking with her during the “roller coaster” of a campaign.

“Now that the roller coaster of last night is over: I want to thank everyone who helped me in this election. Especially Karen, Jodi and Bob. Without your guidance and support, this never would have been possible.

“I also want to thank the other people who ran for office this cycle in Doraville. No election should go uncontested, and this season, all three seats here were a race. We are all winners due to you being willing to put yourself out there like you did.

“Lastly I want to thank everyone who believed in me enough to cast their vote for me. I know I bring a lot to the table and will work hard to make Doraville a better place to live!”


Reese McCranie, Fulton County Commission District 4


McCranie – a longtime LGBT and Democratic activist, and advisor to Mayor Kasim Reed – was in a crowded six-person race for the District 4 post. He placed sixth, winning just 7.54% of the vote.

The election was to fill the remaining term of Joan Garner, the commission's first-ever LGBT member. Garner died April 18. The race included two LGBT candidates – McCranie and Josh McNair.

McNair placed third with 14.40% of the vote. Kathryn Flowers and Natalie Hall will face one another in a December runoff.

Georgia Stonewall Democrats endorsed McCranie.


Josh McNair, Fulton County Commission District 4


McNair placed third in a six-candidate race to replace Joan Garner on the Fulton County Commission. Kathryn Flowers and Natalie Hall will face one another in a December runoff.

McNair – a neighborhood and Democratic Party activist – jumped into the race in June and was one of two LGBT candidates. He received 14.40% of the vote; Reese McCranie received 7.54%

Georgia Equality and Victory Fund endorsed McNair.


Liz Ordiales, Hiawassee mayor


Ordiales is the likely winner in a race against Barry Keith Dearing to lead the City of Hiawassee, which is a small city in Towns County in north Georgia.

Ordiales won a seat on the Hiawassee City Council in 2015. She stepped down as mayor pro-tem to run for mayor.

UPDATE | Ordiales defeated Dearing, 212 votes to 91, according to the Towns County Herald.

Photo courtesy Fetch Your News via YouTube


De'Andre Pickett, State House District 60


Pickett placed second in the state Houose race and is headed to a runoff against Kim Schofield. The race is to replace Keisha Waites, who resigned to run for the Fulton County Commission. Waites held the seat for five years and was one of four openly LGBT lawmakers at the Gold Dome.

Schofield won 35.86% of the vote to Pickett's 34.95%. Sparkle Adams won 29.30%.

In 2014, Pickett lost a race for the Fulton County Board of Education. A year earlier, he lost a race for the East Point City Council. Georgia Equality and Georgia Stonewall Democrats endorsed Pickett.


Bill Powell, Atlanta City Council District 1


Powell – who reviews federal projects for governments – was running to unseat incumbent Carla Smith. He was thumped, placing third in the five-person race. Smith easily won the race without a runoff, taking 55.62% of the vote. Powell received 2.85%.

“I’m very dissatisfied with the city council,” Powell told Georgia Voice in July. “There’s a host of issues why I’m running. Crime is really bad, there are improvements that are needed for the roads, there are projects being built that are not in the best interest of my community.”

Powell ran against Smith in 2013 and lost.


Kirk Rich, Atlanta City Council District 6


Rich lost in a lopsided defeat, with Jennifer Ide scoring a more than two-to-one win over the real estate agent and civic activist. Rich hoped to replace Alex Wan, a two -term incumbent and currently the council's only openly gay member. Wan ran for City Council president.

“I’ve got the right skillset, and kind of a needed skillset that’s kind of been lacking on the council,” Rich told Project Q Atlanta in January. “To help, to be a partner, and, again, really understand a lot of the development issues when it comes to real estate.”

Ide won 67.62% of the vote to Rich's 32.38%. Rich's loss means the Midtown district won't have an LGBT representative for the first time in 20 years.


Charlie Stadtlander, Atlanta School Board


Stadtlander, a former teacher, was thumped in his second run for the Atlanta School Board, handily losing to At-Large Seat 8 incumbent Cynthia Briscoe Brown. Stadtlander also lost his 2009 race for the school board.

On Tuesday, Brown coasted to election with 70.99% of the vote. Stadtlander placed second with 16.79% and Ben Stone received 12.23%

“I believe there is a direct correlation between spending our property tax dollars wisely, and making a welcoming environment that all students deserve. No, not just a welcoming — a safe and welcoming environment that all students deserve,” Stadtlander said in an August interview with Project Q Atlanta.

Georgia Stonewall Democrats endorsed Brown.


Keisha Waites, Fulton County Commission Chair


After five years as a state lawmaker, Waites said it was time to run for Fulton County Commission chair. Waites placed second to Robb Pitts and will face him in a December runoff. 

Pitts won 38.27% of the vote to Waites' 33.93%. Gabriel Sterling received 27.80% of the vote.

“I have a long track record of standing up for LGBT equality. I have a long record of standing up for Fulton County taxpayers. I have a long record of standing up for Fulton County residents. I represent everybody in Fulton County – gay, straight, black, and white. And I will continue to do that as the next chair,” Waites told Project Q Atlanta last week.

Waites took office in February 2012 after winning a special election for the District 60 post in the state House. In 2010, she ran for the Fulton County Commission, topping a crowded field only to lose the runoff by 168 votes to Joan Garner, who went on to become the commission's first openly LGBT member. In 2006, Waites ran for Fulton chair and lost to John Eaves.

Georgia Equality and Georgia Stonewall Democrats endorsed Waites.


Alex Wan, Atlanta City Council President


Wan took the most votes in the race for City Council president, putting him in a December runoff with fellow City Council member Felicia Moore. 

Wan, after two terms on the City Council, announced in January that he would run for Council president. 

“It is time for the city to embrace new modern day progressive concepts like innovation and sustainability, and just more collaborative political leadership and political operations,” Wan told Project Q Atlanta in January.

Wan won with 38% of the vote to Moore's 35%, according to the AJC. Longtime City Council member C.T. Martin place third with 26%. Unofficial election results from Fulton County put Moore in first place and Wan in second.

Wan was endorsed by Georgia Equality, Georgia Stonewall Democrats and Victory Fund. Georgia Log Cabin Republicans endorsed both Wan and Moore.


Christopher Weed, East Point City Council


Christopher Weed – an Air Force veteran and administrative assistant – hoped to unseat incumbent Sharon Shropshire for the Ward A At-Large post.

“We can better serve the residents of East Point, and operate more efficiently by eliminating some of the red tape that hinders business creation and growth,” Weed told Project Q Atlanta in July. “You must lower the regulatory roadblocks to creating investment in our community, while ensuring that businesses, or any other entity, are responsible community members themselves.”

Weed apparently suspended his campaign before qualifying and his name did not appear on Tuesday's ballot.


Cathy Woolard, Atlanta mayor


Woolard, trying to make electoral history again, stepped into the mayor's race in 2015 would have become as the city's first-ever openly gay mayor.

“I'm working as hard to get the vote of the LGBT community as any other one. I certainly think I have a record that is incomparable to anything collectively that the other candidates could say that they've done for the gay community,” Woolard said on a recent episode of Podcast Q.

Woolard became the first openly gay elected official in Georgia when she unseated a longtime incumbent on the Atlanta City Council in 1997. She went on to become the first woman and openly gay City Council President in 2002. 

Woolard placed third on Tuesday, winning 14.32% of the vote. Keisha Lance Bottoms and Mary Norwood topped the 12-candidate race and will face one another in a Dec. 5 runoff.

Woolard was endorsed by Georgia Equality, Human Rights Campaign and Victory Fund.

In a statement released Wednesday, Woolard said her campaign helped focus the race on affordable housing, transit, good governanace and equality.

“We finished strong. We were able to knock on tens of thousands of doors, make many more thousands of phone calls, be present at more forums than should legally be permitted during an election, and connect with more Atlantans than many outside our team thought possible. I was able to keep a contest that could easily have become about a number of different things centered on what really matters—how we can make sure Atlanta capitalizes on its promise.

Atlanta can have affordable housing at every income level, Atlanta can have a world-class transit system, and this city can be a Southern beacon of hope, equality, and good governance at a time when our nation so desperately needs to be reminded of the excellence it’s capable of achieving. I believed these things when I ran for city council president, I believed them when I decided to run for mayor, and I'll continue to believe them well into the future.

I can say with confidence that our ideas won, and you can bet our next mayor will be borrowing from our blueprints.”


Two other LGBT candidates – Tyai Green and Lock Whiteside – announced runs for the Atlanta City Council but dropped out of their races in August.


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