Fulton County voters take note: You just delivered the county commission’s first openly gay commissioner, helping Joan Garner come from behind to dispatch now eight-time loser Keisha Waites.
What turned into a decisive win for Garner Tuesday night—she took 64.49 percent of the vote to Waites’ 35.51 percent—wasn’t a forgone conclusion. Waites bested Garner by 168 votes in the July 20 primary and carried momentum into the runoff – or it could have been strong name recognition from seven past (and unsuccessful) campaigns since 2001. But on Tuesday, Waites’ vote total dropped from 3,576 on July 20 to 1,484, while Garner’s dropped from 3,408 to 2,695.
So in an election won by attrition, Garner’s campaign lost fewer voters and took the runoff. Without any opposition in November, that means you can now call Candidate Garner the Commissioner-elect.
“I am both humbled and honored that my friends and neighbors in District 6 gave me their vote of confidence,” Garner says in statement issued early Wednesday. “I look forward to serving as their voice in Fulton County government.”
Between now and November, Garner says she will continue to meet with people and groups across District 6. The campaign – which now is probably best dubbed a transition team – is also planning an election celebration on Aug. 25.
“I said when we started this race that this is the right role at the right time,” Garner says. “Serving my neighbors of District 6 as a Fulton County Commissioner will allow me to even better support the communities in which I so strongly believe. I entered this race to ensure that this diverse community continues to prosper, and that it does so with the active participation of people from all walks of life – across District 6 and beyond.”
Garner collected the endorsements of three key LGBT groups – Georgia Equality, Atlanta Stonewall Democrats and the national Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund – on her way to victory, along with deep support from key LGBT political types. Waites dismissed those endorsements and didn’t publicly court gay voters, though she did receive a late endorsement from a co-owner of the Eagle. The Atlanta Progressive News’ Matthew Cardinale, a gay activist and journalist, also endorsed Waites.
With the win, Garner joins Alex Wan and Simone Bell in making local LGBT electoral history. Wan won a runoff last December to become the first openly gay man – and third overall openly LGBT person – to serve on the Atlanta City Council. Bell won a special election last year to become the nation’s first openly lesbian African-American state lawmaker. Bell faces no opposition this November in her campaign to win a full term in the General Assembly.