LGBTQ lawmaker announces historic run for Georgia office

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State Rep. Matthew Wilson officially launched a historic run for Georgia insurance commissioner today. A win in November 2022 would make him the first openly LGBTQ statewide official in Georgia history.

“I’m excited to bring that representation to the statewide ticket this cycle, and I’m particularly excited to bring that representation to the insurance commissioner race,” he told Project Q Atlanta in an exclusive interview.

If he wins, Wilson would also be the first LGBTQ person in the South elected to a constitutional office, he added.

Wilson, 37, is a personal injury attorney who flipped the Brookhaven-based House District 80 seat from red to blue in 2018. He handily beat his Republican opponent to win a second term in the state House in November. Wilson will serve the remainder of his term while running for insurance commissioner.

He’s pushing for lower insurance premiums, a full expansion of Medicaid and “a new direction that centers the needs and the pocketbooks of working families across Georgia.”

“My background is taking insurance companies to court in my law practice every day, and then serving in the state legislature has shown me the potential for the enormous impact that this office has, and I’m stepping up to turn that potential into reality,” Wilson said.

He hopes to oust incumbent Republican Commissioner John King. Gov. Brian Kemp appointed King in 2019 to replace Jim Beck, who was indicted for allegedly stealing more than $2 million from his former employer to help fund his campaign. King is a former Doraville police chief who serves as a major general in the U.S. Army National Guard. He was also the first Hispanic statewide official in Georgia history.

Wilson praised King’s military service and said he understood why Kemp tapped him to the position, but problems with the office “are deeper than Commissioner King or Gov. Kemp can fix,” Wilson said.

“For the past 25 years, the Republican position has been to prioritize the industry over Georgia consumers,” he said. “If Commissioner King or Gov. Kemp or the Republican-led General Assembly really wanted to do anything about our out-of-control insurance rates, they could have already done it.”

“If they actually wanted to get serious about expanding Medicaid, they could show it. And they haven’t, so it’s time for a change in leadership,” he added.

Wilson hinted in March that he would run for statewide office. He filed the paperwork for the insurance commissioner’s race on April 16 and formally launched the campaign on Wednesday. He is the only known Democrat in the race so far. The Democratic primary is in May 2022.

State Rep. Matthew Wilson during a 2019 hearing at the State Capitol (Photo by Patrick Saunders)

Wilson fights ‘shameful’ anti-transgender measures

Wilson is a champion for transgender rights and led the fight to ban conversion therapy for minors while in office. He introduced bills banning the practice in 2019 and 2021.

Wilson backed Pete Buttigieg in his run for president, then later served as one of 15 LGBTQ delegates from Georgia to support Joe Biden’s nomination for president at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Wilson was co-chair of Biden’s Georgia LGBTQ Leadership Council.

The City of Atlanta honored Wilson with a proclamation to mark Stonewall Month in 2019. Kemp appointed him to a committee to ensure that all Georgia residents are counted in the 2020 U.S. Census.

Wilson blasted a “shameful” anti-transgender bill introduced in 2019, and “completely misguided” and “morally reprehensible” anti-trans bills filed in 2020. He also fought another anti-trans bill introduced earlier this year. And he opposed a bill allowing faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to refuse to place children with LGBTQ couples in 2020.

Wilson helped Brookhaven pass an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in 2020. And he condemned Kemp’s order reopening non-essential businesses one month into the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms appointed Wilson to her LGBTQ advisory board in 2020. And Wilson was one of two-dozen people Rev. Raphael Warnock appointed to his Out for Warnock LGBTQ+ Advisory Council in his successful run for U.S. Senate.

Wilson introduced a resolution calling on anti-trans U.S. House Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to resign earlier this year. He also backed measures to rid Georgia of its Confederate symbols in 2021.

Wilson is one of several Democratic state legislators and other officials who have announced runs for statewide office in 2022.

“When you look at the Democrats that are stepping up in all the different races, it is certainly a very exciting ticket that is shaping up and I’m excited to be a part of it,” he said.

Wilson added that LGBTQ representation matters in these races.

“It certainly matters to LGBTQ Georgians who continue to struggle to feel like they belong in our state, especially when we see hateful legislation targeting our community every legislative session,” he said. “But it also matters I think to the millions of Georgians who care about living in a fully inclusive state that values each of her citizens equally.”

Wilson is currently one of seven LGBTQ lawmakers in the Georgia General Assembly.

This story is made possible by Google News Initiative’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.

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