The three LGBT candidates in runoff elections on Tuesday – De'Andre Pickett, Keisha Waites and Alex Wan – were poised to make history as the first LGBT people elected to their offices. All three lost.
The runoffs on Tuesday capped an election cycle in which 16 LGBT candidates competed in races across North Georgia. Just three won in November – Joseph Geierman and Stephe Koontz in Doraville and Liz Ordiales in Hiawassee.
On Tuesday, voters could have elected LGBT candidates to two of the most high-profile offices in metro Atlanta – Waites as Fulton County Commission chair and Wan as Atlanta City Council president. A Waites win would have elected the first-ever LGBT person to the office and Wan would have been the first gay man – and second LGBT person – elected president of the City Council. Pickett would have become the fifth openly LGBT person elected to the Georgia House – and its first gay black man.
Alex Wan, Atlanta City Council President
Wan lost to fellow City Council member Felicia Moore, 55% to 45%. In November, Wan topped the three-person race and received the most votes. He would have become the first gay man and Asian-American to lead the City Council.
When Wan announced in January that he would run for City Council president instead of a third term on the council, he said he wanted to bring innovation and sustainability to the job, along with "more collaborative political leadership."
"I’m more interested in finding a solution than I am about saber rattling and fighting for the sake of fighting," Wan said.
Georgia Equality, Georgia Stonewall Democrats and Cathy Woolard endorsed Wan. Woolard, who was the first LGBT person elected to office in Georgia, placed third in the mayor's race this year.
Wan's loss will leave the City Council without an LGBT member for the first time since Woolard was elected to the seat in 1997.
Wan said Wednesday that he's "proud of the race we've run."
As you may know, we did not achieve the result we wanted in yesterday’s election. Still, I am proud of the race we’ve run and will be eternally grateful for your support and encouragement on this journey.
I look forward to completing my term representing City Council District 6, which winds up Dec. 31. It has been a privilege to serve as a Council representative for 8 years, working to move our communities forward. And during this campaign it has been invigorating to meet and hear from so many citizens across our great City.
While I will not go into the New Year as your City Council President, this in no way ends my commitment to community and political engagement/activism. I’ll take some time to recharge and decide the ways in which I want to continue creating solutions around the issues about which I care so much…and for the City about which I care so much.
We’ve made great strides together over my two terms on Council and I appreciate your support during that time and, certainly, during this great campaign.
Keisha Waites, Fulton Commission Chair
Waites, a former state lawmaker, lost to former Fulton Commissioner Robb Pitts 55% to 45%. Waites would have become the first LGBT person to lead the commission – a distinction that weighed on Waites since she entered the race in September.
"Certainly, I'm very proud to wear that title. It's important to me for our community, specifically the LGBTQ community, to know that we can be successful, we can be transparent and we can be open and honest about who I am," Waites told Project Q Atlanta ahead of the runoff.
In five years as a state lawmaker – one of four openly LGBT members in the state House – Waites carved out a track record on LGBT issues and pledged to work on equality issues and the county's HIV epidemic as commission chair.
"My legislative track record has spoken to diversity. I have not run away from any LGBTQ issues. I've championed them," Waites said.
Georgia Equality and Georgia Stonewall Democrats endorsed Waites.
De'Andre Pickett, Georgia House District 60
Pickett was running to replace Waites in the Georgia House. He lost 53% to 47% to Kim Schofield – a difference of 233 votes.
Pickett – running his third campaign for public office – decided to run as an openly LGBT candidate for the first time.
"It's about being comfortable with you. It's about being comfortable within yourself," Pickett said on Podcast Q ahead of the runoff. "And so I said at the end of the day, I am who I am and I'm going to continue to fight for every individual, every black young man, every black woman, every gay, straight, every lesbian, every queer, every transgender, every individual who has ever felt like they had to be something for someone and they could not be their authentic self. I am going to fight for you. I'm going to speak for you because I know what that feels like it and I never again will allow myself to be placed in that kind of box."
Georgia Equality and Georgia Stonewall Democrats endorsed Pickett.