Queer candidate Park Cannon wins House race

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First-time queer candidate Park Cannon easily beat a former lawmaker on Tuesday and will soon become the third openly gay member of the Georgia House.

Cannon, 24,raised the most cash in the special election for the District 58 seat and topped two other candidates in the Jan. 19 race. But her margin of victory wasn't large enough to avoid a runoff.

That came Tuesday and Cannon soundly defeated Ralph Long, 59 percent to 41 percent. Little more than 1,100 votes were cast in the runoff for the seat, which stretches from Midtown to Turner Field to East Point.

Cannon, a women's health advocate who describes herself as queer, will fill the remaining months of state Rep. Simone Bell's term. Bell, the first African-American lesbian elected to a state legislature, resigned in November. Cannon was endorsed by Georgia Equality and the Victory Fund.

It was not immediately clear Wednesday morning when Cannon would be sworn into office, but she will step into a General Assembly mired in a slate of anti-gay “religious freedom” bills. She will join two other openly gay House members – Reps. Karla Drenner and Keisha Waites.

Cannon has said she opposes a “religious freedom” bill from state Sen. Josh McKoon. But since launching her campaign in December, several anti-gay pieces of legislation have surfaced. On Tuesday, the Senate Rules Committee passed a hybrid “religious freedom” bill that would offer protections to people and faith-based organizations that object to gay marriage. The law could gut LGBT non-discrimination policies by companies and in place in jurisdictions across the state and allow faith-based groups that receive tax dollars to discriminate against LGBT people.

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