Georgia may reside in the least gay-friendly part of the country, but in Atlanta, we have an increasing number of gay and gay-friendly politicians who are involved in our city’s government. As Atlanta enters another election on Nov. 5, here are some of the candidates and races that the LGBT community will be watching.
Mayor Kasim Reed, whose support of same-sex marriage came last December after the Atlanta City Council passed a resolution supporting same-sex marriage, is running to stay in the office he was first elected to in 2009. His opponents for the seat include Al Bartell, Fraser Duke and Glenn Wrightson. Unlike his 2009 race, though, where he narrowly beat Mary Norwood in a runoff election, Reed’s chances of winning on election night are high.
City Council, Post 2 At-Large
Of the three citywide posts on the City Council, Post 2 is one worth keeping an eye on. Mary Norwood, who was elected to the seat in 2001 and held it until she decided to run for mayor back in 2009, faces off against her successor, Aaron Watson.
Norwood is no stranger to Atlanta’s LGBT community. During her 2009 campaign for mayor, she announced her support for same-sex marriage, and enjoyed a wide showing of support from the LGBT community during that race. Watson, meanwhile, has also shown support for the LGBT community. He voted in favor of the Atlanta City Council’s resolution supporting same-sex marriage.
Endorsements from LGBT organizations in this race have split between the two candidates. Georgia Equality declined to endorse either candidate outright, though they deemed both equally favorable to the community. The Stonewall Democrats have endorsed Watson, while the Log Cabin Republicans have endorsed Norwood.
City Council, District 5
If you want to know where the biggest competition is for gay and gay-friendly candidates this year, look no further than District 5 – an eclectic district that includes East Atlanta, Cabbagetown, Glenwood Park, Edgewood, Reynoldstown, and East Lake. In this area, openly gay candidates Matt Rinker and Christian Enterkin are both looking to unseat incumbent Natalyn Archibong, who’s been in office since 2001. Also running against Archibong is resident John Paul Michalik.
Rinker became the first challenger for Archibong back in January. Rinker, a property manager who lives in East Atlanta, has focused on public safety, crime reduction and transportation as major issues of his campaign. Rinker has also acknowledged his support of returning bar closing hours to 4 a.m.
Enterkin entered the increasingly crowded race back in May. She brings with her a background in business as a vice president at Landmark Dividends and involvement as the public safety chair of the Kirkwood Civic Association. Her top priority? Crime prevention. She’s also focused on financial accountability and efficiency in city services.
Up until last week, the race also included another gay man, Jon Jones. Jones was seeking to be the first black gay man elected to the Atlanta City Council. When withdrawing from the race, Jones endorsed Archibong. In a statement to Project Q Atlanta, Jones said that, “With 5 contenders vying for the District 5 council seat, the odds of a single candidate reaching the necessary ’50% plus 1′ threshold to win are slim; thus triggering the need for a second run-off election to be held in December. Hopefully, by my exit from the race and supporting Natalyn, voters will see how important it is to re-elect someone with a proven track record to the seat.”
Archibong has also picked up an endorsement from state Rep. Keisha Waites, currently one of three openly gay members of the Georgia General Assembly. Archibong was one of 11 council members to support the resolution to support same-sex marriage last year. She also voted against the legislation that would have forced adult businesses off of Cheshire Bridge Road.
Archibong has come under fire in recent weeks after settling with the city’s Board of Ethics for failing to disclose paying more than $11,000 in taxpayer money to her brother’s company in 2007 and 2008. The settlement included a $250 fine, and the papers indicate that Archibong cooperated in full during the investigation.
City Council, District 6
Openly gay representative Alex Wan, whose popularity in the gay community took a hit during the Cheshire Bridge rezoning debate earlier this year, is running for reelection in District 6. He faces two opponents: Mike Boyle and Tracey Austin.
During his first term, Wan pushed for the Atlanta City Council to vote on a resolution supporting same-sex marriage. The resolution passed 11-2 late last year, and it also led to Mayor Reed’s public support of same-sex marriage.
More recently, Wan aided in helping restore Piedmont Park – a part of the councilman’s district – for Atlanta Pride and the AIDS Walk after Music Midtown’s rain-soaked event destroyed large portions of the park.
Still, Wan’s popularity in the gay community was dinged earlier this year as he led the charge to remove adult businesses from the Cheshire Bridge corridor, including some gay-owned and gay-aimed businesses. That measure was ultimately voted down by the City Council in a 6-9 vote.
Wan’s two opponents, though straight, have stated their own support for the LGBT community. In an interview with the GA Voice, Austin stated her desire to propose a position for an “Administrator for Equal Opportunities and Rights,” to be assigned by the mayor and council, which she hoped would encourage an LGBT employees and allies network. Boyle, meanwhile, has pointed to his support of Chelsea Manning during her trial, and has also criticized Wan for what he believes was a lack of involvement in smoothing over the relationship between the Atlanta Police Department and the Atlanta Eagle following the Eagle’s 2009 raid.