Midtown city council seat opens up, two LGBTQ candidates qualify

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In a last-minute scramble, former Atlanta City Councilmember Alex Wan and small business owner Courtney DeDi will square off for an open Atlanta City Council seat. The development in District 6 makes 10 LGBTQ candidates running for council spots this November.

The Midtown/northeast Atlanta seat opened up with a surprise Aug. 16 announcement by incumbent Jennifer Ide that she would not seek re-election. The news came a day before candidates for city council began filing paperwork to formally run and just four days before qualifying ended.

For Wan, it would be a return to the seat he once held for eight years. He told Project Q Atlanta he wants to tackle issues like public safety and the delivery of city services.

“If I feel like I have something to contribute to a solution, and I have the capacity and ability to do it, then I want to jump into the ring and work on it,” Wan said.

The candidate also highlighted his experience in a year when at least seven new council members and a new mayor will be elected.

“It’s a lot in any given year, but it’s especially a lot at a time when the city’s facing the challenges it’s facing right now,” he said. “I can hit the ground running Day One.”

Often considered the heart of the LGBTQ vote on the council, District 6 covers much of intown northeast Atlanta. Neighborhoods include Ansley Park, Atkins Park, Brookwood Hills, Druid Hills, the Emory University corridor, Lindridge-Martin Manor, Lindbergh-Morosgo, Midtown, Morningside-Lenox Park, Piedmont Heights, Sherwood Forest and Virginia-Highland.

Alex Wan was the first openly gay man elected to the Atlanta City Council when he took office in 2010. (File photo)

Wan’s $48,000 edge

Wan enters the race with an immediate, substantial fundraising advantage. DeDi and the two other candidates in the race — neighborhood activists Justin Critz and Katie Voelpel — launched their campaigns last week and just started fundraising. Wan has $48,000 leftover in his old District 6 campaign account, which he can use for this race.

“That was not my intent to keep it open so I could run again at some point,” he said. “Those type of things take time to unwind and unravel, and I had just not had the time to do it yet.”

Wan became the first Asian American and first openly gay male candidate elected to the council when he took office in 2010. He served two terms before losing a race for council president in 2017. Last June, Wan lost an effort to return to elected office when he placed second in a Democratic primary for state House District 57.

The Fulton County Commission named him chair of the Registration & Elections Board in March. He resigned from the board last week to run for city council.

Wan is the executive director of the nonprofit Horizons Atlanta and serves on the boards of the Piedmont Park Conservancy and Live Thrive Atlanta. He also sits on Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ LGBTQ Advisory Board.

Courtney DeDi and girlfriend Jen Bhalla (Photo courtesy DeDi campaign)

‘I’m excited to get to work’

DeDi is the owner of doggy daycare Club Diogi and the dog walking and pet sitting business Diogi Pet Services. Members of several local business organizations reached out to her after Ide’s announcement.

“They called me and said wow this might be a really great opportunity for you,” she said.

The Virginia-Highland resident consulted with family, friends and her girlfriend before deciding to make her first run for public office.

“After a lot of thought and prayer, I decided to toss my hat in the ring on [Aug. 19], and we’ve been off to the races since then,” she said. “The catalyst was that I love this city so much. Over a period of time, I’ve watched things decline.”

DeDi was also driven to run out of frustration with city officials following the fire that damaged a bridge on Cheshire Bridge Road earlier this month. It could close that portion of the road for up to a year, according to the AJC.

Club Diogi is the closest business south of the bridge, and business is down 30 percent since the fire, DeDi said.

“There’s been a lot of finger pointing,” she said. “A year of loss is huge, especially since we haven’t even recovered from COVID yet.”

DeDi’s campaign focuses on infrastructure, affordable housing and public safety.

“I am committed to fighting every day to make every neighborhood safe regardless of income bracket or zip code,” she said. “I want to meet our staffing targets. Community policing and having the officers live within the areas they serve will address a lot of crime issues.”

“I’m excited to get to work,” she added.

The Out Georgia Business Alliance gave DeDi the Rising Star Award in 2017.

LGBTQ history on city council

If elected, Wan or DeDi would continue a long tradition of LGBTQ representation on the council.

Cathy Woolard became the first LGBTQ elected official in Georgia when she unseated a longtime incumbent on 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, 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.


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