One of 11 openly LGBTQ candidates running for Atlanta City Council in November, corporate trainer and neighborhood advocate Jason Hudgins is the sole challenger hoping to oust the incumbent in District 10.
LGBTQ hopefuls make up one-fifth of all candidates running for 16 Atlanta City Council seats this year. Hudgins told Project Q Atlanta that the city should view diversity the same way that the corporate world does.
“When you have more voices at the table and more people with different experiences, it lends itself to a better process with better results,” he said. “We must have a diverse council that looks like the community so that all of the community issues are brought to the table as part of our lived experience.”
Hudgins, 39, is also one of nine Black LGBTQ candidates running for office across metro Atlanta this year. He called that statistic “amazing.” He also noted most of those candidates are millennials or younger.
“These are demographics of people who have come into themselves at a much different age than maybe our elders did, so they are much more likely to present their whole selves when they walk into a room,” he said. “I think you’re seeing that shown in the electoral process.”
District 10 is in southwest Atlanta and includes Carroll Heights, Adamsville, Westhaven, Harland Terrace, Fairburn Mays, East Ardley Road, Audobon Forest and Westview. Hudgins faces City Councilmember Andrea Boone, who is in her first term.
Boone raised $137,000 and has $120,000 on hand as of the latest campaign finance reports released in June. Hudgins launched his campaign after that deadline.
Hudgins: City leaders too reactive
Hudgins got his bachelor’s degree in political science and government from the University of Louisville and his master’s in business administration and management from Howard University. He’s the former president of the Westview Community Organization and a former board member of the Metro Atlanta Land Bank.
He stepped down as chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit T to run for city council. He’s focusing on equity, transportation, public safety and healthcare in his campaign.
“Many of the issues I’ve worked with at the community level, we’ve hit a roadblock with city processes because our leaders are more in love with reacting to issues instead of solving them,” he said. “Things become a crisis before we get a response from them.”
Hudgins said the city’s public safety issues are about more than crime.
“We have to start dealing with crime as a symptom and not the problem in itself,” he said. “Crime is higher in communities where poverty is higher. It’s higher where unemployment is higher.”
The city’s long-troubled HOPWA program is “a complete disaster,” Hudgins said. The federal program provides the city with rent subsidies for low-income people with HIV. Late payments from the city, mismanagement and a revolving door in leadership perennially plague the program.
“The council has to have a greater oversight role here,” he said. “Unfortunately, members of council didn’t even know the program was off the rails until we were sending money back to the federal government.”
“It’s not just about HOPWA,” he added. “It’s about how the city’s partners can trust it to hold its word.”
Hudgins hosts virtual Q&A sessions with voters every Monday at 7 p.m.
LGBTQ history on city council
If elected, Hudgins would continue a long tradition of LGBTQ representation on the council.
Cathy Woolard became the first LGBTQ elected official in Georgia when was elected to 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. Fauver served two terms. Alex Wan took over in District 6 in 2010 as the city’s first gay male council member. He served two terms before an unsuccessful bid for council president in 2017.
The council then had no LGBTQ members for the first time in 20 years. Antonio Brown won a special election for the District 3 seat in 2019 and became the first-ever Black LGBTQ council member. He launched a campaign for mayor instead of seeking a full term in District 3.
Other LGBTQ candidates running for Atlanta City Council this year include teacher Kelly-Jeanne Lee in District 1, neighborhood activist Larry Carter in District 4, community organizer Liliana Bakhtiari in District 5, small business owner Courtney DeDi and former Atlanta City Councilmember Alex Wan in District 6, 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 for city council president.
Atlanta City Council elections are Nov. 2, with any necessary runoffs on Nov. 30.