Georgia Equality endorses some but not all LGBT candidates

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Georgia Equality has put its stamp of approval on a batch of candidates ahead of the May 24 primary – including two Republicans – while snubbing some LGBT candidates by declining to endorse them.

The statewide LGBT advocacy group surveyed legislative and judicial candidates, and poured through their responses before issuing the recent endorsements, which focus heavily on races in Fulton and DeKalb counties. 

The two Republicans in legislative races who received a thumbs up from Georgia Equality are Joshua Littrell and Patricia Goodwin.

Littrell, an Air Force Veteran, is in a crowded, all-Republican race for House District 8, a north Georgia district near the border with North Carolina. Four-term Republican Rep. Stephen Allison announced in February he would not seek re-election. Allison had an excused absence when House Bill 757 was the benign Pastor Protection Act and it passed in February. He voted for the measure in March when it morphed into an anti-gay bill that Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed on March 28.

Goodwin is competing in the Senate District 24 race in Augusta to replace Rep. Bill Jackson, who won the seat in a 2007 special election. Jackson voted for the Pastor Protection Act in February and skipped the second vote in March. Goodwin is among five Republicans running in the primary. The winner will face Democrat Brenda Jordan in November.

“These two Republican candidates that we endorsed, they were candidates that not only had very, very good answers and understanding of the LGBT community but they were candidates that we felt were actually running active campaigns,” said Jeff Graham (photo), Georgia Equality's executive director.

Georgia Equality evaluates legislators based on their understanding of important statewide issues – including “religious freedom” legislation, HIV prevention and care, and employment anti-discrimination protections – as well as the viability of their campaign, according to Graham.

Georgia Equality and LGBT activists could use a few more Republican friends at the State Capitol. Just 10 House Republicans and one GOP senator voted against House Bill 757 in March. 

Graham cautioned that this batch endorsements are for candidates in contested primaries and that there will be a second round of endorsements ahead of the November general election.

“These endorsements are not life long endorsements, these endorsements are good for the primaries only,” Graham said.

Another surprise in the endorsements came in the House District 62 race. Two of the six candidates in the Democratic primary are LGBT; Georgia Equality backed Rafer Johnson, a Delta flight attendant and civic activist, over attorney Valerie Vie. Johnson – who raised more than twice as much campaign cash as Vie – nabbed the endorsement based on the viability of his campaign, Graham said.

“A lot of it goes to viability of the candidate. Who has really been running a competitive campaign? Who has raised money? Who has been engaged in the LGBT community?” Graham said.

And in a Democratic district – there is no Republican running in HD 62, which includes portions of Fulton and Douglas counties – often all of the candidates give good answers to Georgia Equality's endorsement questions. 

“That’s then when we start looking at some of the other characteristics,” Graham said. “In that race we felt that Rafer Johnson was the strongest and the best candidate from that perspective.”

In HD 56, Georgia Equality sat out the Democratic primary that includes Rep. Able Mable Thomas, gay healthcare professional Marckeith DeJesus and Melodi Peoples in a district that includes portions of Midtown.

Thomas didn’t ask for an endorsement and Dejesus isn't running a strong enough campaign to win, Graham said.

“That was very simple – we just did not receive a request for an endorsement from Rep. Thomas,” Graham said. “She has done, I think, a very good job, she has a very long history of representing and working very strongly on the concerns of the LGBT community.”

“We just didn’t feel that the challenger, frankly, that there was enough with his history and involvement with his campaign to give us reason to endorse him over the incumbent,” Graham added.

In a bit of political irony, Georgia Equality favored gay candidate Ken Britt over Thomas when they competed for the open seat in 2012. The group endorsed Britt before Thomas officially stepped into the race; Thomas went on to win and returned to the legislature for the third time.

Georgia Equality is also sitting out the HD 54 race in Buckhead – for now. That pits Rep. Beth Beskin, a Republican, against Bob Gibeling, the gay challenger who lost to Beskin in 2014. They won't face one another until November. Beskin has supported LGBT issues during the “religious freedom” debate, though she sometimes struggles. She was among 10 House Republicans who voted against House Bill 757 in March when it was turned into anti-LGBT legislation.

The complete list of endorsements from Georgia Equality:

State Senate

  • SD 24: Patricia Goodwin (R)
  • SD 39: Vincent Fort (D)
  • SD 43: Dee Dawkins-Haigler (D)

State House

  • HD 8: Joshua Littrell (R)
  • HD 58: Park Cannon (D)*
  • HD 59: Josh Noblitt (D)*
  • HD 60: Keisha Waites (D)*
  • HD 62: Rafer Johnson (D)*
  • HD 63: Kelli Hooper (D)
  • HD 64: Derrick Jackson (D)
  • HD 76: Sandra Scott (D)
  • HD 82: Mary Margaret Oliver (D)
  • HD 85: Karla Drenner (D)*
  • HD 99: Brenda Lopez (D)
  • HD 105: Donna Mcleod (D)
  • HD 113: Pam Dickerson (D)

Fulton County

  • Commissioner, District 4: Joan Garner (D)*
  • Superior Court Judge: Gary Alembik*
  • Superior Court Judge: Sterling Eaves
  • State Court Judge: Jane Morrison*
  • Solicitor General: Clinton Rucker

DeKalb County

  • Superior Court Judge: Clarence Seeliger
  • State Court Judge: Dax Lopez
  • District Attorney: Favorable Ratings to 
  • Robert James and Sherry Boston
  • Solicitor General: Nicole Marchand Golden

Griffin

  • Superior Court Judge: Catherine Sanderson
  • District Attorney: Rudjard Hayes

Gwinnett County

  • State Court Judge: Carla Brown

* Openly LGBT candidate

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