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|Lesbian candidates face off in Fulton Commission runoff|
|Written by Dyana Bagby|
|Friday, 06 August 2010 00:00|
Keisha Waites and Joan Garner are vying to be the first openly gay Fulton County Commissioner as they face each other in a runoff on Aug. 10.
During the July 20 Democratic primary for the District 6 seat, Waites placed first in a field of four with 3,576 votes, or 41.46 percent, with Garner in second with 3,408 votes, or 39.14 percent, according to official Fulton County Elections results.
Only 168 votes separated Waites and Garner, who advance to the runoff because neither received more than 50 percent of the vote. David Holder received 837 votes, or 9.7 percent. Sally Smith finished last with 807 votes, or 9.55 percent.
Waites is now touting Holder’s endorsement in the runoff. Waites declined to participate in the Georgia Voice candidate survey before the primary and declined to be interviewed for this story after an email request last week.
“Thank you for your email. Unfortunately due to the short 1-week window remaining in the campaign we are directing all of our efforts to field outreach canvassing District-wide.
“Upon completing the election cycle we welcome the opportunity to participate in an interview with GA Voice. We recognize GA Voice as the premier GLBT media outlet in the region and would appreciate the opportunity to engage your readers and provide them with our campaign information below to reach us. Regarding my platform and civic involvement that information is located on my website at www.keishawaites.com,” Waites answered this week.
Garner took time out from calling supporters to talk to Georgia Voice about how she is staying on the course she has followed since before the primary.
“We’re building on what we did during the general primary and try to get out voters more than ever,” Garner said Monday. “We continue to get our message out there, but even harder.”
“I have 20 years of service to my community and I know what the issues are,” Garner added. “I bring experience on working on issues that affect our well-being, delivery of services, public safety, financial accountability. I am qualified and spent the time working on the ground — I am the best person for this position.”
Garner was endorsed by three LGBT groups — Georgia Equality, the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats and the Victory Fund, a national organization that supports LGBT candidates — as well as the Atlanta Board of Realtors and the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Union (AFL-CIO).
Garner, a longtime activist and philanthropy expert who worked for Mayor Maynard Jackson as senior adviser on gay and lesbian issues, is principal of Garner Results Inc., a nonprofit and philanthropic consulting firm.
Her previous roles include president and CEO of the Historic District Development Corporation, a nonprofit that works to preserve the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District and other areas; serving as chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit-M in 2009; and serving as executive director of the Southern Partners Fund and the Fund for Southern Communities, among others. This is her first bid for public office.
Waites works for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and in 2005 was invited by FEMA to serve on the Hurricane Katrina Long-Term Recovery Team, according to her website. She previously worked for the Small Business Association. Her community involvement includes past service on the Fulton County Democratic Party Executive Committee, as an Atlanta Leadership Institute graduate, and on the board of the Georgia Stonewall Democrats in 2001, among others.
She has a long record of seeking elected office. In 2001, Waites ran for the at-large Post 1 seat on the Atlanta City Council. In 2002, she ran for State Senate District 36. In 2004, she was one of four candidates who applied to temporarily fill the Atlanta City Council District 12 seat, but council members did not pick her for post. Waites then ran for the Atlanta City Council in 2005 and ran for Fulton County Commission chair in 2006.
She ran for State House District 61 in 2008 and received the endorsement of Georgia Equality in that race, where she reached the runoff. Waites again ran for Atlanta City Council in 2009.
“I’m proud of every race I’ve been in and I believe it shows I’m committed to the process and have a strong desire to serve,” Waites told the Georgia Voice shortly after qualifying for this year’s ballot.
In addition to Holder, Waites is endorsed by Atlanta Progressive News, a website run by activist and writer Matthew Cardinale.
Holder has mixed record on LGBT issues, according to a candidate survey he filled out for the Georgia Voice before the primary. When asked his opinion on the 2004 state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, Holder answered, “I have no opinion.” Asked if the amendment should be repealed, he again answered, “I have no opinion.”
Georgia law is currently silent on adoptions by gay and lesbian citizens, leaving decisions up to the courts based on the best interest of the child. Holder answered that “supports the current status.”
Waites did not respond to an interview request about Holder’s positions.
Garner stated she voted against the state constitutional amendment and she supports legislation clarifying that sexual orientation should not be used as a reason to deny adoption.
Top photo: The Fulton County Commission will soon have an openly gay member. The Aug. 10 runoff will determine whether it will be Joan Garner (left) or Keisha Waites. (Photos courtesy candidates)
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