At least five gay and lesbian candidates want to win a seat in the Georgia General Assembly this year, including two who are seeking re-election and two others who have run in the past.
Three gay men want to join the two openly gay members of the state legislature – Rep. Karla Drenner, who is seeking her sixth term, and Rep. Simone Bell, who is running for her first full two-year term.
Brad Ploeger, a gay attorney, is running as a Libertarian and hopes to unseat gay-friendly Rep. Margaret Kaiser for the District 59 post that includes portions of Grant Park, Midtown, Lakewood and the Old Fourth Ward.
Gay restaurateur and Democrat Keith Gross is taking his second run at unseating Rep. Mike Jacobs, a gay-friendly Republican in District 80 in DeKalb County. Jacobs authored an anti-bullying bill currently being considered in the legislature.
Tim Riley, a gay mental health counselor who lives in Athens, is campaigning as a Democrat for the second time against Republican incumbent Ralph Hudgens for the District 47 seat in the Senate.
Even with five LGBT candidates for the Gold Dome this election cycle, it falls short of the 15 gay candidates who sought office last November and December. (Joan Garner, a lesbian and longtime LGBT activist is running for the Fulton County Commission.)
Last year, six of the 15 gay candidates won, including Bell who became the first lesbian African American elected to a state legislature in the U.S. The winners list also included Alex Wan, who topped two other gay candidates and three others to become the first gay and Asian man elected to the Atlanta City Council.
If Ploeger, Gross or Riley win their races – the primary is July 20 with the general election Nov. 2 – they would make history as the first openly gay men elected to the Gold Dome. None of the men say they are gay or discuss LGBT issues on their campaign websites, though Riley discusses his past campaigns as a gay candidate in a press release about his campaign.
Ploeger (top photo), who is also the communications vice chair for the Libertarian Party of Atlanta, faces the hurdle of gaining access to the November ballot by gathering the signatures of 1,600 voters on a petition. In addition to becoming the first openly gay man in the state House if he wins, Ploeger would also become the first Libertarian elected to the General Assembly.
Ploeger blogs for the Libertarian Party of Atlanta on its website, including a post condemning the Atlanta Police Department’s raid on the Eagle last September and calling for then-Mayor Shirley Franklin to apologize.
The website includes a brief paragraph about Ploeger:
Brad Ploeger currently works for the law firm of Bagwell & Associates, PC in Sandy Springs and directs the firm’s title and escrow operations. He has worked in Metro Atlanta since 2003 and resides in Atlanta’s Historic Grant Park neighborhood. When he is not in town promoting the cause of individual liberty, you can find Brad backpacking with his partner Joey in the mountains of Georgia and North Carolina.
Hudgens (second photo) has run for the state Senate twice before but lost both times: He campaigned against Hudgens in 2008 and in 1988, sought the District 40 seat, according to a press release from his campaign.
“It was a different time when I won the nomination in 1988, I had death threats and many vile remarks back then,” Riley says in the press statement. “In 2008 some 20 years later it was more low-key and issue oriented. Georgia is growing up and we are all taking seats at the table now, even in rural Georgia”
Gross (bottom photo) is taking aim at Jacobs for a second time and announced his campaign in 2009. His campaign in 2008 fell short when the Georgia Secretary of State disqualified him for not meeting residency requirements. Gross, who owns Sprouts Green Café in Emory Village, blasts Jacobs and the 2008 campaign flap on his website.
I ran for this seat in 2008 because of my disappointment that Mike lied to all of us and switched from Democrat to Republican (after lying long enough to get elected). Just like you, I was surprised when I was kicked off the ballot through a clever legal maneuver, which I inadequately defended. This case was orchestrated by the Republican Party and Mike Jacobs because Mike didn’t want to face the issues and they didn’t want the voters of District 80 to have a choice on who represented them.
Last year, Gross also launched a website and Facebook page for the Georgia Pulse in the wake of the collapse of Window Media and the shuttering of Southern Voice and David. The Georgia Pulse was pitched as a “bi-monthly publication covering news and events that affect the LGBT community in Atlanta and the State of Georgia.” In a Dec. 13 Facebook posting, the publication said it “is replacing Southern Voice as the LGBT newspaper in Atlanta,” but it hasn’t made it to print. The last post to the page came five days later.
Gross is hosting a meet and greet event on April 24.