Two Democrats battled in today’s primary for the chance to challenge incumbent Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta) for House District 80, located in the northeast Atlanta suburbs.
Jacobs was first elected in 2004 as a Democrat and then switched parties after the 2006 election. This will be the first year he has faced a Democrat since becoming a Republican.
Business owners Sandy Murray and Keith Gross, who is gay, faced off today. With 66 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial results from the Georgia Secretary of State showed Murray cruising to victory with 68 percent of the vote, compared to 32 percent for Gross.
The gay Atlanta Stonewall Democrats endorsed Murray over Gross. Georgia Equality, which recently honored Jacobs with its Political Achievement award for his passage of an anti-bullying bill, did not endorse in the Democratic primary.
This was the second time Gross’ name appeared on the Democratic primary ballot, but unlike 2008, the votes cast for him will count. Gross attempted to challenge Jacobs in the last election, but was pulled from the ticket after a legal challenge regarding his residency.
Gross has not responded to interview requests from the Georgia Voice. He is the owner of Sprouts Café near Emory University.
Murray said she supports gay marriage, the recently passed anti-bullying bill, non-discrimination laws and expanding healthcare benefits to state workers. Jacobs also supports full marriage rights for gay couples.
In State Senate District 39, incumbent Sen. Vincent Fort, one of the most outspoken LGBT rights advocates in the General Assembly, faced a challenge in the Democratic primary from Graham Balch, who also sought gay votes.
According to unofficial results from the Secretary of State website, Fort won 67.4 percent of the vote, compared to 32.6 for Balch.
Fort’s campaign included an LGBT Initiative chaired by state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), who was Georgia’s first openly gay state lawmaker and is running unopposed for her sixth term, and longtime community activist Craig Washington.
“I have a record that’s not only theoretical, but based on actions — things I have actually done,” Fort said in an interview in May. “I am very proud of my record and want to continue on that path.”
For accomplishments specifically related to LGBT rights, Fort noted that he sponsored Georgia’s first hate crimes law, which passed in 2000 but was eventually struck down by the state Supreme Court on the grounds that its description of hate crimes as based on “bias or prejudice” was unconstitutionally vague.
Fort also noted that as a member of the Senate Rules Committee, he had worked to prevent legislation to ban gay adoptions. He is also a familiar face at LGBT events.
Balch’s prominent LGBT supporters include two gay politicos in East Point, former East Point City Council member Kevin Hudson and former City Council candidate Ken deLeon, as well as Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan, who donated to Balch’s campaign.
Balch argued that his opponent has not been effective in passing legislation, especially since Republicans became the majority in the General Assembly, and the district needs “less talk and more action.”
“There is a difference between standing up for an issue and solving an issue,” Balch has said. “I believe Senator Fort is great at standing up for issues, but I think we need someone who is good at solving issues.”