It’s not a dream. You woke up this morning living in a state that hasn’t been painted this conservatively red since that little skirmish between the states. But there are a few glimmers of hope for Georgia’s gays.
Which do you want first – the good news or the bad? We like our dessert first at dinner, so we’ll start with the good: Lesbians.
If it wasn’t for the lesbians this election cycle, we’d be in even worse shape. Yesterday’s election made final something we knew was going to happen – the Fulton County Commission gets its first openly gay member (Joan Garner) and the state House keeps its two (and only) lesbians in Karla Drenner and Simone Bell (second photo).
A little more of the good stuff: Gay-friendly state Rep. Mike Jacobs, a Republican, kept his seat, as did gay advocates U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson. John Eaves (bottom photo), who earlier this year came out in support of gay marriage and took part in the Atlanta Pride Parade, retained his seat as Fulton County Commission chair.
Three local LGBT groups – Georgia Equality, Atlanta Stonewall Democrats and Georgia Log Cabin Republicans – endorsed candidates in the general election. How’d they do? Overall, the three groups endorsed 57 candidates with 29 winning, 23 losing and five in runoffs. And we say that with an asterisk as some of the groups endorsed the same candidate. (For example, Eaves was the pick of Georgia Equality and Stonewall Democrats. He won. Matt Wilson was the pick of all three groups for a seat on the Georgia Supreme Court. He lost.)
Georgia Equality: The statewide gay rights lobby went 10 for 17 with its endorsements that included one Republican (Jacobs) and Garner. Two candidates — Jared Bailey for the Athens-Clarke Commission and Chris McFadden for the Georgia Court of Appeals — are in runoffs.
Atlanta Stonewall Democrats: These partisans endorsed the most candidates of the three groups (33), with 18 of them scoring wins though several of their candidates in the state House were running with no opposition. Three more of their picks are in runoffs, including two seeking the same DeKalb Superior Court seat (Courtney Johnson and Michael Rottenberg). Shelitha Robertson is in a runoff for a Fulton Superior Court judgeship.
Georgia Log Cabin Republicans: The gay GOP group endorsed its biggest slate of candidates yet at 7. One – Jacobs – won.
Now for the bad news:
Four openly gay candidates were on the ballot. The only one that wasn’t an incumbent and faced opposition was mental health counselor Tim Riley, who wanted to take the largely rural District 47 seat. He lost – for the second time.
Ethically-challenged, anti-gay former GOP U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal (top photo) took the governor’s mansion, dispatching former Gov. Roy Barnes and gay-marriage supporting Libertarian John Monds. Barnes was blazing no progressive trails on the campaign stump – though he did back a state hate crimes measure – but Deal took a scorched earth policy when it came to LGBT issues during his primary campaign. Gay activists can only hope his ethics problems bring about an indictment so he’ll be distracted from championing something like a ban on gay and lesbian adoptions.
State Rep. Jill Chambers, the only Republican to vote against the state marriage amendment while it was before lawmakers in 2004, was ousted by Elena Parent for the District 81 post. Stonewall backed Parent; Log Cabin went with Chambers.
Outgoing Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond lost his challenge to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. The Democrat was the most gay-friendly of any statewide Dem on the ballot Tuesday.
Mary Squires, the gay-friendly Democrat who lobbied for votes at several LGBT events, lost the race for state Insurance Commissioner to conservative state Sen. Ralph Hudgens. How right-wing is Hudgens? He opposes insurance mandates requiring coverage of mammograms.
So, revel in red folks. When Georgia Equality comes calling for help with its Gold Dome lobbying efforts as the legislature hits the State Capitol in January, wipe away those tears and find some way to support them. The retaining wall against anti-gay legislation got a lot weaker on Tuesday.