Voters made electoral history on Tuesday, electing Doraville's first-ever openly LGBTQ mayor and Savannah's first openly LGBTQ city councilmember.
Joseph Geierman beat incumbent Mayor Donna Pittman, taking 65 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Pittman, according to the DeKalb County Elections Office. Geierman received 561 votes and Pittman 298. In November, Geierman received 39 percent to Pitman's 28 percent, which forced Tuesday's runoff.
“Ultimately what I think it says is the people of Doraville were ready for change and I’m glad that they believed in my vision for the city,” Geierman said.
He also acknowledged changing attitudes when it comes to electing openly LGBTQ officials.
“I think very few people voted for or against me because I’m gay, but it does mean something to me just because of that fact that I think 10 years ago this might have been an issue,” he said. “The world has changed so much.”
Geierman will work with a city council that has two LGBTQ members. Stephe Koontz was elected to the council alongside Geierman in 2017. Geierman gave up his District 2 seat in July to run for mayor. Gay IT professional Andy Yeoman won the District 1 seat in November. He replaces City Councilmember Pam Fleming, who decided not to run for re-election.
Geierman and Yeoman will likely be sworn in the week of Jan. 6, according to Geierman. Pittman has served as Doraville mayor since 2011.
Geierman will become just the fourth current openly LGBTQ mayor in Georgia when he takes office. He will join Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Pine Lake Mayor Melanie Hammet and Canton Mayor-Elect Bill Grant. Another gay mayor, Dave Shearon in Watkinsville, lost in November and will be replaced by former state Rep. Bob Smith in January, according to Oconee County Observations.
Geierman was endorsed by Georgia Equality and the Victory Fund.
He thanked supporters in a speech posted to Facebook on Tuesday night:
Upset in Savannah City Council race
Kurtis Purtee ousted a 20-year veteran of the Savannah City Council and will become the council’s first-ever openly LGBTQ member.
Purtee beat Alderman Tony Thomas by taking 53 percent of the vote to 47 percent for Thomas, according to the Chatham County Board of Elections. Purtee received 2,529 votes, while Thomas received 2,218. Thomas beat Purtee by eight points in the November general election, but Purtee surged ahead in the runoff on Tuesday.
Purtee, who is a police captain for Georgia Southern University, said in a Facebook post following the win that he was “truly humbled by all the support.”
“It is amazing to see our democracy in action,” he said. “This is just the beginning of the change you have voted for. Thank you all so much for being a part of this grassroots campaign to bring power back to the people of the sixth district.”
Purtee was endorsed by Georgia Equality and the Victory Fund. Another Georgia Equality endorsee, LGBTQ ally Van Johnson, was elected mayor of Savannah on Tuesday.
This was at least the second time Thomas faced an LGBTQ candidate. He beat David Self in 2015.
In 2016, Thomas was investigated by the GBI over allegations that he groomed, sexually abused and provided drugs and alcohol to several teenage males. A grand jury voted not to pursue charges against Thomas, according to the Savannah Morning News.
Pam Miller, a lesbian, lost her race for Savannah City Council in 2011.
Top photo by Russ Bowen-Youngblood. Second photo courtesy Kurtis Purtee.