Gay activist sparks flap in mayor’s race

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UPDATED | 7:01 p.m.

An Atlanta LGBT activist and campaign veteran is swatting down what he says are suggestion that mayoral candidate Mary Norwood bought his support or promised him a job in her administration.

Kyle Bailey (photo), who most recently served as interim executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, released a three-page statement Thursday criticizing Kasim Reed’s campaign for circulating the rumors, which he called “a distasteful whisper campaign.” Bailey has been vocal in his support of Norwood on his Facebook page and through other venues.

“Last night, several respected LGBT community leaders and allies contacted me concerning a rumor that is now being spread by supporters of Kasim Reed suggesting that my personal endorsement of Mary Norwood in the Atlanta mayoral contest was ‘bought and paid for’ and that I have been promised a job in a Norwood Administration,” Bailey says in the statement.

“These accusations are complete lies intended to question my credibility and weaken my efforts to help elect Mary Norwood. Norwood is the only candidate in this race who is 100% pro-equality, who can bring about genuine change and who can restore the confidence of Atlantans in our city government,” he says.

Bailey adds that does not support candidates based on financial arrangements and challenged critics to search Norwood’s financial disclosure statements for any payments to him.

“I do not know Mary Norwood beyond her public record and the several group meetings that I have had with her to voice concerns of Atlanta’s LGBT community – all but one of these meetings has taken place since I decided to support Norwood’s candidacy several weeks ago. Not only would I never have a conversation with a candidate to offer my support in exchange for a job, I have never had the opportunity to have a private conversation with Mary Norwood during any of our several group meetings,” Bailey says in his statement.

Reese McCranie, a gay spokesperson for Reed’s campaign, says in a statement that the rumors did not come from the Reed camp.

“Kyle Bailey’s recent allegations couldn’t be further from the truth – we are running a campaign based on issues, not rumors or innuendo,” McCranie says. “But if it takes a three page letter to explain himself, I think the lady doth protest too much.”

McCranie goes on to tout Reed’s record on gay issues, including a 100 percent voting record from Georgia Equality in his 11 years in the General Assembly, as well as endorsements from Atlanta Stonewall Democrats and Georgia’s only openly gay legislator, state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates).

Contrary to allegations from other sources, McCranie says Reed “supports full legal equality for all same-sex couples and believes there should be no legal distinction between gay couples and straight couples.”

“Sen. Reed was the chief House sponsor for Georgia’s first and only Hate Crimes Bill that protected LGBT individuals,” McCranie says. “He helped secure state funding for an LGBT tourism study for the City of Atlanta. He led the effort in the State Senate against the Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage and was able to defeat that amendment the first time it came to the floor of the Senate. He has consistently helped to stop attempts to ban gay adoption in Georgia.”

As for Norwood, McCranie says she’s no match for Reed’s record when it comes to LGBT issues.

“Ms. Norwood can make all the claims she wants about supporting gay rights, but there isn’t one piece of legislation that she has championed that furthers the rights of gays and lesbians in Atlanta,” he says. “Kasim’s unmatched record trumps her rhetoric.”

Bailey’s allegations come just days after Norwood’s campaign paid $1,500 to “Able” Mable Thomas for consulting services. Thomas is a community activist and former city council member who endorsed Norwood before the Nov. 3 election.

Bailey’s statement also heats up the battle for gay votes between Reed and Norwood. Reed gained the backing of the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats–a group Bailey founded–despite not supporting same-sex marriage. Norwood said in May that she supports gay marriage, though she did so only after leaving a meet-and-greet with LGBT voters.

At that forum, Borders reiterated her support for gay unions, while Reed backed civil unions. Norwood issued a statement the next day saying she would “endorse and publicly urge passage of a measure that would allows gays and lesbians to marry.”

Norwood has received small campaign contributions from former U.S. Sam Nunn, one of the architects of the military’s ban on gay soldiers, and former state Attorney General Mike Bowers, who took his fight against gay civil rights to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read Bailey’s full statement. (pdf)

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