Three LGBT candidates get big gay endorsements

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Three gay candidates running for the Georgia House received the backing of a national LGBT group, an endorsement that could bring them cash, votes and attention from gay Atlanta voters.

On Tuesday, the Victory Fund confirmed that it has endorsed Park Cannon (photo left), Josh Noblitt (photo center) and Rafer Johnson (photo right) in their Atlanta-area races for the state House. Cannon faces a Jan. 19 special election to fill the remaining term of state Rep. Simone Bell, a lesbian who quit her District 58 seat in November. Noblitt and Johnson will compete in separate races during the Democratic primary on May 24.

In backing all three, the Victory Fund cited their strong campaigns.

Park Cannon is a reproductive health educator and advocate running to represent District 58 in a special election. This is a significant race for the LGBT community, as the seat is being vacated by openly gay representative Simone Bell, Park’s friend and mentor. Bell became the first black lesbian legislator in the country when she was elected in 2009. The fight is on to keep the seat safely in LGBT hands, and Park Cannon’s strong campaigning and engagement in advocacy lends her a promising path to victory.

One district over, openly gay therapist and pastor Joshua Noblitt hopes to represent District 59, a seat vacated by an aspiring mayoral candidate. Joshua faces a tough race against two other Democrats where a runoff is a near certainty. But between his field-oriented campaign strategy and impressive fundraising, Joshua has a fighting chance.

In District 62, openly gay Delta Air Lines program manager Rafer Johnson is running to represent another open seat. Rafer has been a community advocate in his district for many years, and his reputation combined with his strong campaigning have given him a strong start.

Cannon would join two other openly gay state lawmakers – Reps. Karla Drenner and Keisha Waites. Noblitt and Johnson would be the first-ever openly gay men to win a seat in the General Assembly. Some 12 gay men have tried – and failed – to become state lawmakers. 

Cannon faces a tough election against Kwame Thompson and Ralph Long, a former state lawmaker who lost a bitter 2012 race to Bell. Two years later, in 2014, Long's wife Erica challenged Bell and lost.

But LGBT support is lining up behind Cannon. Georgia Equality also endorsed her campaign. Cannon said she is “proud and grateful” for the group's backing.

“We are humbled and excited to accept the Georgia Equality endorsement because Georgia Equality is the premier organization dedicated to getting openly LGBTQ candidates elected, moving the bar on LGBTQ issues, and ensuring equality for all Georgia residents,” Cannon said in a press release. 

“Beyond that, I have personally been a passionate supporter of Georgia Equality for years. As an out and proud member of the LGBTQ community, I am incredibly proud and grateful for their endorsement and support,” she added.

Georgia Equality said it will issue endorsements in other races after qualifying ends in March.

[photo via Victory Fund]

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