Staunch LGBT ally loses metro Atlanta House seat

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A state lawmaker and staunch LGBT advocate narrowly lost his re-election bid for a metro Atlanta seat in the Georgia House.

State Rep. Taylor Bennett, the Democratic incumbent in District 80, was narrowly defeated by Republican challenger Meagan Hanson on Tuesday. She received 50.52 percent to Bennett's 49.48 percent – 12,095 to 11,847 votes.

The House district includes Brookhaven, Chamblee and portions of Sandy Springs.

Bennett, whose mother is a lesbian, quickly established himself as an LGBT ally when he jumped into the special election for the seat last year. The attorney, former Georgia Tech quarterback and first-time political candidate was motivated, in part, by the push from Republicans in the state legislature to pass anti-gay “religious freedom” legislation.

Earlier this year, he pushed for the expansion of a public accommodations bill to include LGBT people. And as Georgia lawmakers passed a sweeping anti-gay “religious freedom” in March, Bennett blasted it from the House floor. He also stood with LGBT lawmakers to denounce the legislation.

Hanson has pledged to “become one of the LGBT community's greatest allies” and opposed “religious freedom” legislation during the campaign. But she also wouldn't discuss two transphobic tweets she sent in 2013 and 2011.

And the gay director of Georgia Republicans for the Future, which has fought “religious freedom” legislation and pushed for a more inclusive GOP, accused Hanson of lying about standing up to supporters of the legislation.

Bennett told Reporter Newspapers that he knew the race would be close.

“Obviously it was very close and we didn’t know the final tally until this morning,” Bennett said in a phone interview. “We knew it would be close.”

Bennett noted when the district was formed, it was a conservative Republican stronghold. That demographic has drastically changed in the past 10 years.

He praised his campaign and staff for their hard work in getting out the message he carried and said he hopes the message of inclusion and hope continues to resonate. “It’s a different world right now and I hope people understand they need to pay more attention. We had such small turnout in our races and also at the national level.”

Bennett, an attorney, said he would continue to work in the state to make it better. “You don’t need to be a state legislator to get stuff done,” he said.

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