LGBTQ lawmaker launches historic run for Georgia lt. governor

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Georgia state Rep. Renitta Shannon launched her campaign for lieutenant governor on Monday, setting the stage for what would be a groundbreaking election in the state.

Her campaign website featured calls to raise the minimum wage, expand healthcare access, reform the criminal justice system and end legal discrimination against LGBTQ people in Georgia.

“Georgia has over the years failed to expand Medicaid, resisted stopping mass incarceration, resisted paying workers a living wage,” Shannon told Project Q Atlanta after her announcement. “I’m a proven progressive fighter and I’m willing to advance and fight for the policies I’ve talked about.”

The lawmaker, 41, would be Georgia’s first openly LGBTQ lieutenant governor and first Black woman ever elected to statewide office in state history. She wore a t-shirt saying “Black & Proud” in rainbow colors in her campaign launch video (below).

“But it’s always been about the issues for me,” she said. “Winning this campaign would be about the policies that the people of Georgia actually need. We need progressive leadership at this time to do what’s best for the people of Georgia.”

State Rep. Renitta Shannon (top left) discussed hate crimes and police brutality with a Project Q panel in 2020. Panel moderator Matt Hennie (top right) interviewed her with Georgia Equality Deputy Director Eric Paulk and state Rep. Park Cannon.

The primary field

Shannon is the second LGBTQ candidate in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor and third LGBTQ candidate running for statewide office in 2022.

She is currently one of seven LGBTQ lawmakers in Georgia’s legislature. Elected to House District 84 in Decatur in 2016, she came out in 2017 on the eve of National Coming Out day that year and marched in the Atlanta Pride parade a few days later.

As an incumbent, the lawmaker faced no opposition in the 2018 and 2020 elections. She is scheduled to leave the legislature in 2023.

The primary for lieutenant governor is in May. Shannon’s opponents in the Democratic primary include gay political strategist Kolbey Gardner, who made his case for the post with Project Q earlier this year. The primary also includes Shannon’s fellow state Reps. Erick Allen and Derrick Jackson, as well as physician Jason Hayes, entrepreneur Ben Turner and nonprofit leader Bryan Miller.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan is not running for re-election. State Sens. Butch Miller and Burt Jones, activist Jeanne Seaver and U.S. Marine veteran Mack McGregor are vying to take his spot in the Republican primary.

Walking the walk

Since taking office in 2017, Shannon boycotted Gov. Brian Kemp’s first major speech as governor-elect in 2018. She said Kemp ran a “campaign of hate” that targeted voters of color, immigrants, women and LGBTQ people.

In 2019, she called an abortion ban that the legislature passed a “death sentence” for Georgia women. She also introduced a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to report use-of-force incidents to a public database and co-sponsored a measure that would ban conversation therapy for minors in Georgia.

In 2020, Shannon sponsored a House resolution honoring transgender activist Tracee McDaniel. She also called for hate crimes legislation and repeatedly knocked Kemp’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, Shannon slammed voting restriction bills and joined several dozen House Democrats in a resolution calling on U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to resign.

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