Gay neighborhood activist jumps into Atlanta City Council race

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A gay neighborhood activist wants to unseat a longtime incumbent on the Atlanta City Council and address affordable housing, infrastructure and the city’s housing program for low-income people with HIV.

Larry Carter, 40, jumped into the District 4 race in March. He’s one of four candidates looking to replace Cleta Winslow, who is running for her eighth consecutive term.

“We’ve had the same leadership for about 28 years now and we’re at a point where we need to be at the table with the development and growth happening in the community,” he told Project Q Atlanta. “We’ve had an issue with getting what comes to us as opposed to having proactive leadership going out and getting what we deserve and bringing that back.”

Carter has been a teacher and diversity coordinator for Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School in Grant Park, treasurer for the West End Neighborhood Development and vice chair for Neighborhood Planning Unit T. He’s now a project manager for the U.S. Census Bureau.

Carter is also an R&B artist who dropped his fourth album last fall.

If elected, Carter wants to help reform HOPWA. Under the program, the federal government provides funding to the city, which distributes the money to local housing agencies to subsidize the rent of low-income people with HIV. Late payments from the city, mismanagement and a revolving door in leadership have plagued the program for years. Carter said the program serves “the most vulnerable people in our population.”

“It’s not because we don’t have the money, it’s because the city’s process is so antiquated that they can’t process the [reimbursement] requests in time,” Carter said. “The providers can’t afford to go forward.”

He said he’ll sit down with leaders of the housing agencies in his first 100 days in office to figure out how to streamline the process.

Carter is also troubled by skyrocketing housing prices, which create barriers for first-time homeowners and force out existing owners facing higher property taxes.

“The City of Atlanta does property taxes based off market rate and not your purchase price,” he said. “You’re given a loan off what you can afford so you should be taxed off what you can afford. It’s the intent versus the impact. The intent is not to displace people, but the impact is that it does.”

He also wants to work toward “complete streets” in Atlanta by fixing streetlights and adding more traffic calming devices and sidewalks.

City Council member Antonio Brown, who is running for mayor, is one of several LGBTQ people seeking office this year. (Photo by Matt Hennie)

‘People just have blind spots’

If elected, Carter would continue LGBTQ representation on the council. City Councilmember Antonio Brown became the first Black LGBTQ member of the council in 2019, but he is running for mayor instead of seeking a full term in the District 3 post.

Carter said the council needs LGBTQ people among its 16 members.

“Sometimes people just have blind spots because it’s not their experience, so they don’t put it at the forefront,” he said. “When we think about equality and transgender rights, we need to make sure we protect our vulnerable populations and have someone who’s engaged in those conversations already.”

Carter raised $25,000 and has $20,000 in cash on hand, according to the second quarter fundraising report he filed with the Office of the Municipal Clerk. He trails neighborhood activist Jason Dozier ($97,000 raised with $60,000 on hand), community organizer Rogelio Arcila ($67,000 with $40,000 on hand) and entrepreneur Kim Scott ($41,000 with $29,000 on hand).

Winslow raised just $750 and has $750 on hand. Dozier came within 250 votes of unseating her in a District 4 runoff election in 2017.

Carter lives in the West End. District 4 also includes Capitol Gateway, Summerhill, Mechanicsville, Castleberry Hill, Hunter Hills, Mozley Park, Ashview Heights, Joyland, Westview, Fort McPherson, Venetian Hills, Bush Mountain, Oakland City, Adair Park and Pittsburgh.

Other LGBTQ candidates running for Atlanta City Council this year include teacher Kelly-Jeanne Lee in District 1, community organizer Liliana Bakhtiari in District 5, community organizer Devin Barrington-Ward in District 9, business consultant Jereme Sharpe and attorney Brandon Goldberg for Post 1 At-Large, former state Rep. Keisha Waites for Post 3 At-Large and Mike Russell, who is running for council president.

Qualifying for the races is in August. The election is in November.

Cathy Woolard became the first LGBTQ elected official in Georgia when she unseated a longtime incumbent on the Atlanta City Council in 1997. In 2002, she took office as the first woman and LGBTQ person to serve as City Council president. Anne Fauver, a lesbian, replaced Woolard in the District 6 council seat in 2002. Woolard resigned as council president in 2004 to launch a failed bid for Congress.

Fauver served two terms. Alex Wan continued LGBTQ representation on the council when he won the District 6 seat and took office in 2010. He served two terms before an unsuccessful run for council president in 2017. The council had no LGBTQ members for the first time in 20 years until Antonio Brown won a special election for the District 3 seat in 2019. 

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