Georgia’s gay lawmakers face re-election battles

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It’s campaign season again and three of Georgia’s openly gay lawmakers face varying levels of competition to keep their seats, while a fourth will again cruise to re-election unopposed.

Qualifying for the July primaries and November general election ended Friday at noon. Four gay state lawmakers are running for re-election, and at least two other openly gay candidates are seeking office.

The dean of Georgia’s gay state lawmakers, Rep. Karla Drenner, will cruise to re-election in District 85. No other candidate jumped into the race, meaning the veteran lesbian lawmaker is assured of a seventh term representing her DeKalb County district. Drenner faced no opposition in her 2002 and 2004 campaigns.

In District 57, two incumbents will face off in the Democratic primary. State Rep. Rashad Taylor, who is gay, and gay-friendly Rep. Pat Gardner were forced into the same district thanks to Republican-led redistricting last year. No other candidates filed to join the race. The campaign presents a tough choice for LGBT voters: Back Rashad, who came out last year, or go with Garnder, who has been a staunch gay ally in the House.

In District 58, state Rep. Simone Bell faces state Rep. Ralph Long in the Democratic primary. The two face off because of redistricting. The winner will go up against sales person Earl Cooper, who filed to run in the race as a Republican.

Waites (photo), who won a special election earlier this year in District 60, faces the toughest battle. Four candidates have filed to run against her in the Democratic primary: Gary Davis, who is apparently unemployed, investment banker William Fisher, consultant Antonio Lewis and business owner LaTrenka R. Riley.

Ken Britt, a longtime gay politico who announced his run in mid April, will face former state Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas in the Democratic primary for District 56, which includes portions of Midtown.

In Gwinnett’s District 101, Timothy Swiney – a gay man who has twice run unsuccessfuly for office – will face off against state Rep. Valerie Clark in November. Swiney lost to Clark in the 2010 Republican primary. This time around, he’s filed as a Democrat.

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund has already endorsed Bell, Britt, Drenner, Taylor and Waites. Georgia Equality has backed Bell, Britt, Drenner and Waites, but has yet to issue an endorsement in the Taylor-Gardner race.


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