Georgia Republicans elected a gay tax attorney and party insider as treasurer on Saturday, the first-ever time the state GOP picked an openly gay man for its leadership team – even if many delegates had no clue he's gay.
Mansell McCord, 61, is a former president of the gay Georgia Log Cabin Republicans, former board member of the gay business group Atlanta Executive Network and was among some gay Republicans who supported Atlanta City Council member Mary Norwood in her 2009 campaign for mayor. McCord beat out Gwinnett County GOP Treasurer Brittany Marmol to become the state party's new treasurer. He was elected during the state party's convention in Athens.
McCord had the support of five past GOP chairs, along with a wide swath of party insiders, according to the AJC. And his nomination came from state Sen. Josh McKoon, whose anti-gay “religious freedom” bill roiled the recent legislative session, split Republicans and mobilized massive opposition efforts from LGBT activists and progressive faith leaders.
“You need a man of unimpeachable integrity. You need someone who understands the complexity of campaign finance law,” McKoon told delegates. “And you need someone who has been dedicated to the conservative movement for decades.”
McCord also received praise from other GOP lawmakers and conservative activists who have opposed LGBT equality, including state Rep. Sam Teasley, the Marietta Republican who also proposed a “religious freedom” bill, and Virginia Galloway, the Georgia-based regional field director for the Faith & Freedom Coalition.
“He’s committed to conservative principles. He’s very capable at doing the work, and he’s got strong character. He’s a good friend,” the Marietta lawmaker told a reporter.
Yes, Teasley knew that McCord is gay, as did many others, including Virginia Galloway, a spokesman for Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition. “The state party has spoken. I’m good with that,” she said. “The great thing about [McCord] is that he doesn’t make a big deal of it.”
But Galloway has made a big deal out of attacking LGBT issues. She's one of Georgia's mean lady Republicans who early this year blamed the gays for “a breakdown of character in this nation.” And as McKoon's “religious freedom” bill tanked earlier this year, she got grumpy that the anti-gay legislation didn't advance. Really grumpy.
McCord's election is unlikely the start of a shift on LGBT equality for a state party who likes to lie about its inclusion efforts. On Saturday, party delegates also rejected for a second-time the sorta gay-friendly candidate for party chair, DeKalb attorney Alex Johnson. More likely it's that delegates didn't know McCord was gay or that he spends more time focused on party work than advocating internally for LGBT equality. McCord wouldn't even offer his take on McKoon's legislation – on the same day the party overwhelmingly endorsed the legislation without LGBT protections.
The new state GOP treasurer is a quiet fellow, unmarried and unattached, who has worked for decades in the background of internal Republican operations. When asked for his opinion on the religious liberty resolution under consideration by the convention, McCord declined to answer – saying he would stick to matters of party finance.
But it is unlikely that McCord’s sexual orientation was widely known among delegates in the convention. It was never mentioned in speeches on the floor, nor did McCord dwell on it in his campaign literature.
Some delegates even thought McCord was the husband of a Columbia County woman also campaigning for a GOP leadership slot.
McCord’s sexuality wasn’t a hallmark of the campaign–it wasn’t a fixture of his literature nor was it mentioned on the floor–and some delegates even mistakenly believed he was the husband of female candidate Debbie McCord, who was elected second-vice chair on the same day of balloting.
McCord could not be reached for comment on Monday.
But you never know. The old anti-gay Republicans are dying, younger gay ones are speaking out and even McKoon now reads Project Q Atlanta (bottom image). Maybe it does get better. Or the Georgia GOP is getting comfortable with the gays fixing their hair and doing their taxes as long as they are polite, quiet and don't get married.