Local LGBTQ candidates rack up election wins, fight on to runoffs

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A gay former Atlanta City Councilmember will return to his post, the council may gain the first LGBTQ Muslim elected official in Georgia history, an LGBTQ first was made in Hapeville, and even more LGBTQ candidates made it into runoffs on Tuesday.

The flurry of news comes as at least 23 LGBTQ hopefuls stormed municipal elections across Georgia this year.

The most decisive finisher was Alex Wan. The former city council member cruised to an easy victory in the Atlanta City Council District 6 race, finishing with nearly 80% of the vote. In 2010, Wan became the first Asian American and first openly gay male member of the council. He served two terms before losing a race for council president in 2017.

“I am grateful that my friends and neighbors in District 6 have again affirmed my track record,” Wan said in a statement. “I am humbled and honored by the broad base of support during this campaign; it’s a great springboard to continuing to fight for our shared issues, including public safety, city service delivery and quality of life initiatives.”

Another LGBTQ candidate — Diogi Pet Services owner Courtney DeDi — placed third in the same district race with 10% of the vote.

Liliana Bakhtiari is making her second run for the Atlanta City Council District 5 seat. (Photo by Matt Hennie)

Bakhtiari poised to make history

Queer community organizer Liliana Bakhtiari appeared to have won the Atlanta City Council District 5 race outright without a runoff. She crossed the 50% threshold in the five-person race by just 20 votes, according to unofficial results on Wednesday morning. If that tally holds up, Bakhtiari will become the first openly LGBTQ Muslim elected official in state history.

UPDATE: Late Wednesday, some 4,000 additional votes were tallied in the District 5 race. Bakhtiari’s lead went to 49.5%, forcing a Nov. 30 runoff with her closest competitor, Amanda Mahoney with 18.3%

A win would be a comeback of sorts for Bakhtiari, who came within about 250 votes of winning the same seat in 2017. At this writing, she has not claimed victory, and the second-place finisher Mandy Mahoney has not conceded.

In other Atlanta races with LGBTQ candidates, former state Rep. Keisha Waites tops her field for the Atlanta City Council Post 3 At-Large spot. With 30% of the vote, she faces Jacki Labat in a Nov. 30 runoff. Waites thanked supporters on Facebook on Wednesday.

“As we start this runoff campaign, I invite all of Atlanta to join with us as we continue to put people before politics,” she wrote.

If Bakhtiari and Waites pull out wins and join Wan, it will be the most openly LGBTQ members to serve on the Atlanta City Council at the same time.

Atlanta City Councilmember Antonio Brown during his mayoral campaign announcement in May (Photo by Matt Hennie)

Antonio Brown loses Atlanta mayoral race

Several other LGBTQ Atlanta candidates were less successful on Tuesday.

Atlanta City Councilmember Antonio Brown lost his bid to become Atlanta’s first LGBTQ mayor. He finished a distant fifth in the race with just over 5% of the vote.

City Council President Felicia Moore easily advances to a runoff in the race. In unofficial results, City Councilmember Andre Dickens appears to pull off a major upset, besting former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed by 600 votes.

Brown congratulated Moore and Dickens on Twitter and decried the turnout.

“80% of the city didn’t vote last night,” he wrote. “That saddens me. Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard, but you have to vote!”

“I’m excited to see where God leads my path from here,” he added. “Thank you, Atlanta.”

Brown leaves his council seat in January. After that, he faces a federal trial for multiple fraud charges that he consistently and emphatically denies.

Gay veteran and small business owner Mike Russell came in fourth in the race for Atlanta City Council president. Six other LGBTQ candidates for Atlanta City Council lost their races on Tuesday: Brandon Goldberg and Jereme Sharpe for Post 1 At-Large; Kelly-Jeanne Lee in District 1; Larry Carter in District 4; Devin Barrington Ward in District 9; and Jason Hudgins in District 10.

All three LGBTQ candidates for the Atlanta school board also lost on Tuesday: Stephen Spring for At-Large Seat 7; Jason Allen for At-Large Seat 9; and Bethsheba Rem in District 2.

South Fulton City Councilmember Khalid Kamau would be the city’s first LGBTQ mayor if elected in November. (Photo courtesy Kamau campaign)

Kamau makes South Fulton mayoral runoff

Several LGBTQ candidates outside of Atlanta made waves on Tuesday.

Gay educator Brett Reichert beat Jonathan Scott by over 30 points in the Hapeville City Council At-Large race. He becomes the council’s first-ever openly LGBTQ member. Reichert was “humbled and proud,” he posted on Facebook.

“I would like to thank all of those who supported me with your vote,” Reichert wrote. “I join a great council, mayor, alderman and other city leadership on this journey of listening, learning and serving as an elected public official this January, 2022.”

Chamblee City Councilmember Brian Mock ran unopposed for mayor and will become the city’s first LGBTQ leader. Doraville City Councilmember Stephe Koontz ran unopposed and begins her second term in the District 3 seat in January. Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales also ran unopposed and cruises to a second term.

Pine Lake City Councilmember Jean Bordeaux returns for a third term as one of three top three vote getters in a four-person race for that council.

South Fulton City Councilmember Khalid Kamau heads into a runoff against the incumbent Bill Edwards in the race for mayor. Kamau would become the city’s first LGBTQ mayor if elected.

Emory University research scientist Imani Barnes would be the first LGBTQ and first Black member of the Tucker City Council if elected in District 2, Seat 1. (Photo by Shondria Shontae)

LGBTQ scientist in Tucker City Council runoff

It was a mixed bag for LGBTQ candidates in Tucker.

Emory University scientist Imani Barnes goes into a runoff against Cara Schroeder for the City Council District 2 Seat 1 post. If she wins, Barnes would be the council’s first Black and first LGBTQ member.

“Thank you to everyone for your support, and I’ll see you soon,” she said in a video on Facebook. “It is go time again, but even more now. Thank you.”

Former Obama campaign field director and TV pundit Robin Biro lost his bid to become Tucker’s first LGBTQ mayor. The incumbent Frank Auman beat him by about 10 points.

“Thank you to all of my supporters, family, and friends who have sacrificed and encouraged me along the way,” Biro wrote on Facebook. “I just congratulated Frank Auman on winning a third term and offered to be of service to the City of Tucker in whatever capacity I can going forward.”

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