Gay political strategist launches run for Georgia lt. governor

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Democratic strategist, author and entrepreneur Kolbey Gardner wants to become the first openly gay lieutenant governor of Georgia.

Gardner, 30, said that elected officials in Georgia should represent the population.

“Georgia, over the course of the last decade or more, has become one of the most diverse states in the nation,” he told Project Q Atlanta. “It’s important we have people of all backgrounds in our statewide elected officials to make sure we have the best solutions for everyone in the state of Georgia.”

Gardner is a Cleveland, Ohio, native who graduated from Clark Atlanta University with a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing. He lives in Piedmont Heights in northeast Atlanta and is president of United Strategies Group, a political consulting firm.

He began his political career as an organizer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, followed by stints as field coordinator for Peter Aman’s 2017 race for Atlanta mayor and as legislative staffer for the Georgia House Democratic Caucus in 2018.

Gardner also saw another campaign for lieutenant governor in Georgia up close. He was political director for Sarah Riggs Amico in her 2018 run for the position.

“The thing I learned most is you have to go into communities and listen to the issues that matter the most,” he said. “We learned so much about the issues that working class people face every day. We need to care enough to make those policy positions our priority.”

The candidate would raise the minimum wage and expand Medicaid. He wants to empower marginalized communities as lieutenant governor.

“I believe the role of government is to ensure that people have the ability to achieve their greatest dreams,” he said. “We have to understand where the gaps are in terms of where we are now in terms of affordable housing and poverty and ensuring our schools are fully funded and making sure we get them to where they need to be.”

Gardner leads Democrats in fundraising

Gardner launched his campaign in April. He believes the lieutenant governor position represents his best opportunity to do “the greatest good.”

“It’s a very unique position and it’s the only one that works with the executive branch and legislative branch as well,” he said.”You have an opportunity to be a listening ear for all 159 counties in the state as well as working with our governor to make her agenda get through.”

Stacey Abrams, widely expected to launch a rematch against Gov. Brian Kemp, is the “her” Gardner hopes to see in the state’s top spot.

Gardner jumped out to an early lead over his Democratic opponents for lieutenant governor. He reported raising $112,000 with $110,000 on hand in the latest filing period ending in June.

“As a first-time candidate, I’m extremely grateful to my family, my amazing partner and the entire community that has supported me up until now,” he said.

Among Democrats, Gardner is followed by state Rep. Erick Allen ($106,000 with $100,000 on hand), state Rep. Derrick Jackson ($73,000 with $71,000 on hand) and physician Jason Hayes ($42,000 with $39,000 on hand). Entrepreneur Ben Turner launched his campaign in May but has not filed any campaign finance reports. Nonprofit leader Bryan Miller jumped in last month after the latest reports were filed.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan is not running for re-election. Four candidates launched campaigns to take his spot in the Republican primary. State Sen. Butch Miller leads the fundraising pack with $2 million and nearly the same amount on hand. Activist Jeanne Seaver follows with $17,000 raised with $5,000 on hand. U.S. Marine veteran Mack McGregor joined the race in July and state Sen. Burt Jones joined in August.

LGBTQ political credentials

In addition to his position as a consultant, Gardner also serves as treasurer for the LGBT Caucus of the Georgia Democratic Party.

The candidate was one of four-dozen people named by Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to its Georgia LGBTQ Leadership Council in 2020. He also wrote a book in 2017 about growing up in inner city Cleveland with an abusive parent.

A win in the lieutenant governor’s race would make Gardner the first openly LGBTQ official elected to a statewide office in Georgia. State Rep. Matthew Wilson’s campaign for insurance commissioner would also make history with the same superlative. They will share the honor if they both win.

Qualifying for all statewide races is in March 2022, and the primaries follow in May.

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