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|Gay East Point incumbent faces political newcomer in Dec. 6 runoff|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|November 23, 2011 11:13|
Openly gay East Point City Council member Lance Rhodes faces a Dec. 6 runoff with Karen Rene, a first-time political candidate.
Rhodes garnered 49.52 percent of the Nov. 8 vote while Rene received 45.22 and Marie T. Williams got 5.05, according to official Fulton County election results. Because no candidate achieved 50 percent plus one vote, the top two advance to the runoff.
Rhodes, seeking his third term on the council, was instrumental in getting domestic partner benefits passed for city employees.
“In my first term we established an ordinance and policy that includes the LGBT community. These actions included domestic partnership, recognition of same-sex relationships though City Hall and equal tenement to LGBT people through public use of taxicab services. In addition, East Point has increased the appointment and hiring of openly gay employees and officials. East Point also passed a city charter that protects and includes same sex relationships,” he said.
Rhodes said he also believes he has made environmental concerns an important part of city policies.
“I believe I have brought a stronger awareness to our environmental concerns to our community. I provided leadership on passing the Capital Improvement Plan that address our EPD (Environmental Protection Division) Consent Order. We are now ahead of those goals by two years,” he said.
Rhodes said he has contributed to the establishment of a home recycle service at no additional cost to citizens and the passing of an alternative power ordinance (including solar panels). He and the council are currently working to complete the program for transfer to bio-fuel use in city vehicles.
Rhodes added that he believes the biggest challenge facing East Point is development.
“I am committed to building the City Hall complex, development of the Main Street corridor through the Livable Centers Initiative, development of the commons area through the leadership of our Business Industrial and Development Authority and involvement with the development of the Ft. McPherson project,” he added.
“This goal of development must set a standard for developers by protecting our environment, improving our work and play design, repairing our sidewalk system within the next three years, continuing our capital improvement of the infrastructure, road repair and parks improvements,” he said.
Rhodes said he hopes to be reelected so he can continue the work he has started.
“East Point citizens deserve leadership that recognizes the highest ethical standard. I remain committed to responding to citizens concerns within 24 hours, maintaining our financial recovery plan, making decisions based on sound business principles and providing an improved standard of living,” Rhodes said. “I stand ready to make difficult decisions as I have in the past to secure our financial future. We have some exciting days before us and I wish to be a part of that success.”
Rhodes was endorsed by LGBT political group Georgia Equality for the third time and also received the endorsement of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund for the third time.
Rene: ‘Supportive of equity’
Rene moved to East Point in 2002. She received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Alabama State University and a law degree from Atlanta Law School. For the past eight years she has worked as the business community liaison at the Atlanta Job Corps working with underprivileged youth.
In her job, Rene said she has worked with local officials as well as state representatives and congressional members.
“My education and work experience have given me the professional experience and acuity to handle legislative matters on the council. I am prepared for service on the council, with a balance of experience and a fresh energetic perspective,” she said.
Her vision for East Point is the preservation of historic buildings, to promote downtown business and growth while creating jobs.
East Point deserves “city leaders who smartly manage taxpayer dollars and don’t increase utilities or create new fees when they need to make tough decisions,” she added.
Rene is also a supporter of LGBT equality, she said.
“I am supportive of equity and fairness in the workplace. I support employers who offer domestic partner benefits; to me it makes good business sense,” she said.
She said she would also work to “promote equal hiring opportunities for East Point residents and residential representation on all boards.”
“I believe in the power of diversity. It’s what makes the city of East Point a great place to live. The truth is we all want the same things in life,” she added.
Homophobia in Miton race?
Alan Tart, the openly gay Milton City Council member who lost his reelection bid Nov. 8 to challenger Lance Large, filed a complaint with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Elections Division. Tart alleges two robocalls that went out the night before the election, including one that illegally impersonated him, falsely represented they were from his campaign.
The Secretary of State’s Office said Nov. 21 it was not investigating the complaint, however.
“We did receive the complaint but the Secretary of State’s Officer is not going to open an investigation because neither we nor the State Election Board has jurisdiction over this issue,” said Secretary of State spokesperson Michael Sullivan.
According to Tart, the calls began being received by people he knew at about 7 p.m. on Nov. 7.
“One was a woman speaking about me in the third person; the other was a man impersonating me in the first person,” Tart said.
The robocall from the man, according to Tart, stated, “I am the only openly gay Democrat in North Fulton and it’s important to re-elect Alan Tart so that a progressive voice is heard on the city council. Alan, as a progressive who is openly gay, is in a tight race against a conservative Republican Lance Large. Make sure to re-elect Alan Tart to keep a Democratic voice in a sea of Republicans.”
Tart was elected to the Milton City Council in 2007 after the conservative North Fulton city was incorporated. He lost his bid for a second term on Nov. 8 to opponent Large by a 56.65 percent to 43.03 percent margin.
“I am not trying to reset the campaign. The citizens spoke. But I am not going to sit by idly and let deceitful politicking go unchallenged. This kind of politicking and campaigning is what is bad about American politics,” Tart said.
“I’m sure it was homophobic in the way it was trying to sway conservative voters ... in the 11th hour,” he added. “At the root of this is real evil.”
Large did not respond to a call from GA Voice but told 11Alive News in an email, “I did not launch, authorize or have any knowledge of who launched the robocalls.”
In other races:
In a race closely watched by gay political advocates around the country, Pam Miller hoped 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 garnered enough attention to be considered one of the Victory Fund’s “Top 10 Races to Watch” on Nov. 8.
Miller was endorsed by Georgia Equality and the national Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
But with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Miller had 36.92 percent of the vote compared to 62.85 for Sprague, according to official results from the Chatham County Board of Elections.
One lesbian incumbent became officially victorious as soon as polls closed on Nov. 8. Decatur City Commissioner Kecia Cunningham, who was first elected in 1999 and was the first African-American openly gay elected official in Georgia, ran unopposed this election cycle, securing her another term serving District 2, Post B, in the gay-popular Atlanta suburb.
Kenneth DeLeon, also gay, sought election to the East Point City Council representing Ward C. He ran unsuccessfully for the council in 2009. He faced incumbent Myron B. Cook while Nanette Saucier was the third candidate in that race.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, DeLeon had 37.51 percent of the vote, compared to 50.93 percent for Cook and 11.02 for Saucier.
Top photo: Openly gay East Point City Councilmember Lance Rhodes (left) faces a runoff against Karen Rene on Dec. 6. (Courtesy photos)
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