Pro-gay Norwood steps into Fulton commish race

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UPDATED | 2:28 p.m.: Norwood confirms she’s running for the District 1 At-Large seat, currently held by Eaves, on her Facebook page.

Mary Norwood, who developed strong support among LGBT voters in her failed mayoral bid last year, will run for chair of the Fulton County Commission.

Norwood confirmed her intentions to challenge incumbent John Eaves for the post by running as an independent on Sunday during a GOP event in north Fulton, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The race sets up similar dynamics to the mayoral runoff in December, when Norwood — a gay-friendly white woman — challenged Kasim Reed — a black man who backed LGBT and other progressive causes during 11 years in the General Assembly. But while Eaves, who is black, is generally considered to be friendly to gay issues, he hasn’t publicly advocated for them in the way that Norwood did during her mayoral campaign.

Norwood was unabashed in her support of LGBT issues during the campaign and that helped convince supporters to back her over Lisa Borders and Reed, who both came to the mayoral race with proven track records on LGBT issues. Norwood made a convincing stump speech to LGBT voters, gained backing from high-profile gay politicos, put her lesbian step-daughter on the campaign trail, and raised big bucks from LGBT donors on her way to winning the Nov. 3 election.

Her support of same-sex marriage became a defining issue in the runoff with Reed, who supports civil unions. That helped Norwood convincingly win gay-heavy District 6, though she narrowly lost the overall race in the December runoff.

Norwood’s support among LGBT voters clearly stung Reed, who addressed the issue in a recent interview with Project Q Atlanta. But Reed named Norwood — and three other mayoral challengers — to his transition team or five committees searching for key hires in his administration.

Norwood may again face questions over her ties to the GOP. In the mayor’s race, she received a donation from Michael J. Bowers, the state attorney general from 1981 to 1997 who took his fight against LGBT issues to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her appearance on Sunday before a GOP event in conservative Johns Creek may concern some LGBT voters who are Democrats.

Norwood’s entrance into the commission chair’s race makes her the second gay-supportive candidate to recently step into Fulton County politics. Joan Garner, a lesbian and longtime LGBT activist, on April 5 announced her campaign for the District 6 post on the commission, a seat that opened up after Commissioner Nancy Boxhill announced she won’t seek re-election. On Thursday, statewide gay rights group Georgia Equality announced its endorsement of Garner’s campaign.

Qualifying for the Fulton races takes place April 26 to April 30. Advance voting for the primary begins July 12, with the primary on July 20. The general election is Nov. 2.

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