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|Ga. gay candidates make final push as Nov. 8 election nears|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|October 28, 2011 00:00|
Pam Miller, endorsed by Georgia Equality and the national Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, hopes to be the first openly gay candidate elected in Savannah. Her race against incumbent Mary Ellen Sprague in District 4 of the Savannah City Council has garnered enough attention to be considered one of the Victory Fund’s “Top 10 Races to Watch” come Nov. 8.
“These are exciting and even historic races,” said Shawn Werner, the Victory Fund’s director of campaign services, in a statement. “In each case a victory would mean a real step forward for a local LGBT community, and some of these will be very competitive up until Election Day.
“You hear some call 2011 an ‘off year’ for politics, but that’s wrong. We’ve endorsed 75 candidates this year, largely in municipal elections. These local races are incredibly important. We don’t just win equality nationally or even statewide. We win it every day, city by city and town by town,” Werner said.
The best estimate of openly gay elected officials in Georgia is 12. That’s a small number considering there are an estimated 300,000 LGBT people living in the state, Miller said in a recent interview with GA Voice.
“There are so few to represent all of us,” she said. “I’m looking forward to bringing that voice to Savannah.”
Miller said her sexual orientation has been a non-issue as she seeks a seat on the Savannah City Council. And while there may be others in city government who are gay, their decision not to be open about it is their business, she said.
“I’m authentic about myself. I’ve been told campaigning as openly gay may cost me votes. Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” she said. “I believe I will be elected and I want to walk through the door from day one transparent. If I’m open and honest now, people know I will be that way when I’m at the table. And I do want other LGBT folks to know they can run for office — it’s 2011.”
Miller, who received Savannah Pride’s first Lifetime Achievement Award, said endorsements by Georgia Equality and the Victory Fund were key to her campaign.
“It was essential to my race to have that endorsement. I think it shows I’ve been vetted by substantial organizations, and that I am a viable, winnable candidate,” she said. “It’s a privilege to be endorsed by these organizations.”
“It’s also important because I’m a firm believer in the work they do as well,” she added.
It’s “great to be gay” in today’s political landscape, Miller said, and she is looking forward to the day after the election on Nov. 8.
“I’ve been receiving wonderful support and hoping on Nov. 9 I wake up as the first openly gay elected official in Savannah,” she said.
At least five openly gay candidates on municipal ballots
Miller is one of at least five openly gay candidates appearing on the Nov. 8 ballot for local government seats in Georgia.
Kecia Cunningham, who won a seat on the Decatur City Commission in 1999 to become the first African-American openly gay elected official in Georgia, is running unopposed this election cycle, securing her another term serving District 2, Post B, in the gay-popular Atlanta suburb. During her time on the commission, Cunningham was a leading proponent of the city adopting a domestic partner benefits policy for its employees.
In East Point, south of Atlanta, two openly gay candidates are running for City Council.
Lance Rhodes, who has served two terms on the East Point Council representing Ward B, faces two challengers on Nov. 8: Marie T. Williams and Karen Rene. Rhodes has picked up Georgia Equality’s endorsement for the third time and also received the endorsement of the Victory Fund for the third time.
“During his tenure on the East Point Council, Rhodes received the high honor of the elected official of the month award from Georgia Equality. He was the first recipient of this award that has historically been reserved for national and state representatives,” reads the endorsement on Georgia Equality’s website.
In a statement, Rhodes said, “In a world defined by difference, our strength depends on our common humanity. During my two terms in office, East Point citizens have demonstrated vision and a steadfast resolve to support equal rights within the LGBT community. We have seen a range of actions from the adoption of domestic partner benefits to the inclusion of the LGBT community in our City Charter.”
Kenneth DeLeon, also gay, seeks election to the East Point City Council representing Ward C. He ran unsuccessfully for the council in 2009. On Nov. 8 he faces incumbent Myron B. Cook while Nanette Saucier is the third candidate in that race.
“I will use my business, professional and personal experiences, so that together we accomplish the progressive goals set to solve many of the issues facing our city,” DeLeon states on his website.
“I will do my very best to provide oversight of our city government staff and work to help solve the issues important to the people of East Point. I have spoken with many East Point residents and one thing is loud and clear, the voters of this city want ‘less fighting and more fixing!’ They want to see us roll up our sleeves, listen to their concerns and work towards a future we all deserve,” he states.
In North Fulton County, gay Milton City Council member Alan Tart faces Lance Large on the Nov. 8 ballot for the council’s District 6 seat.
Tart, who is seeking his second term on the council, has been open about his family during his previous campaign and in his biography on the Milton City Council website, but was not known to gay political groups until earlier this summer.
Atlanta votes on Sunday alcohol sales
Residents of the city of Atlanta will get to cast their ballots Nov. 8 on whether the city should allow stores to sell alcohol on Sunday.
The state legislature voted earlier this year to let local municipalities decide to put the question of Sunday alcohol sales to their voters. The Atlanta City Council voted 9-2 in September to put the issue on the November ballot. Atlanta City Councilmember Alex Wan, the council’s only openly gay member, supported the measure.
More than 100 jurisdictions around the state are set to vote on Sunday alcohol sales that day, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. While the Georgia Christian Coalition has sent emails encouraging constituents to vote against the measure, there has been little widespread opposition, according to the newspaper.
Top photo: Kenneth DeLeon (courtesy photo)
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