State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), Georgia’s first openly gay state lawmaker, qualified April 26 to run for her sixth term. Drenner was unopposed in her last election as well.

State Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta), the first openly lesbian African-American state legislator in the nation, qualified April 27 to run for her first full term after winning a special election last fall to finish the term of Robin Shipp, who resigned the seat when it conflicted with her employment.

At 1:30 p.m., the list of qualified candidates on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website did not list anyone as having qualified to run against either Drenner or Bell.

The official list of certified candidates will be received from the state Democratic and Republican parties on Monday, according to as spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Elections division.

Drenner or Bell could still face an independent or third-party challenger.

 

Three gay men run for state House, Senate

Two openly gay men also qualified this week to run for seats in the General Assembly, while a third is running as a Libertarian. If successful, any would be the first openly gay man to serve in the state legislature.

In House District 81, gay business owner Keith Gross hopes to be the name on the ballot with gay-friendly Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta) in November, but will first face computer consultant Sandy Murray in the July 20 Democratic primary.

Gross, who qualified on Tuesday, attempted to run against Jacobs in 2008, but was pulled off the ballot after a court challenge determined that Gross did not meet the residency requirements. The Democrats were unable to get a candidate on the ballot and Jacobs easily beat an independent candidate.

Jacobs, who has been endorsed by Georgia Equality in the past, sponsored an anti-bullying bill strongly supported by the LGBT political group that passed last night in the final hours of this year’s General Assembly session.

In Senate District 47, Tim Riley, a gay mental health counselor who lives in Athens, qualified Thursday. Riley, a Democrat, ran for the same seat in 2008, losing to Republican Ralph Hudgens in the general election. Riley received 25,172 votes, or 35.2 percent of votes cast, compared to 46,257 votes, or 64.8 percent, for Hudgens.

Hudgens is now running for state Insurance Commissioner. Four GOP candidates qualified to run for the seat, meaning Riley will face the winner of the July 20 Republican primary in the November election.

State Senate District 47 includes parts of Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Jackson, Madison and Oglethorpe counties.

Brad Ploeger was nominated to run for Atlanta-based House District 59 at the Libertarian Party state convention on April 24. He is challenging gay-friendly Rep. Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta) for House District 59. On Wednesday, no other major party candidates had qualified for the race.

Ploeger, who is gay, is an attorney and lives in Grant Park with his partner. According to the Libertarian Party, Ploeger must collect 1,600 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

 

Other races to watch:

• House District 81: Rep. Jill Chambers (R-Atlanta), the only Republican to vote against the 2004 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, will face a Democratic challenger.

Elena Parent, who qualified on Tuesday for the House District 81 race, is already drawing gay support, with a March 31 “Celebrate Equality” fundraiser that featured lesbian Q100 radio personality Melissa Carter and featured several gay political activists on the host committee.

House District 89: In this DeKalb-based district, Rep. Earnest “Coach” Williams (D-Avondale) faces Rev. Kenneth Samuel in the Democratic primary.

Samuel, pastor of Victory for the World Church, is a longtime, vocal supporter of LGBT equality. Williams puzzled some lawmakers when he argued against the anti-bullying bill when it was debated on the House floor in March, asking what would happen if two children picked up another child and “torpedoed” him into a fourth child.

• Senate District 39: State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) is one of the strongest LGBT rights allies under the Gold Dome. But this longtime supporter will face a Democratic challenger this year who is also drawing gay support.

Fort qualified Monday to run for a new term. Graham Balch, a teacher, qualified Tuesday to run against Fort in the Democratic Party. Balch, who became an award-winning teacher at Grady High School after a career in business, is well-funded and has drawn support from several gay politicians.

• Senate District 42: In a race closely watched by LGBT political group Georgia Equality, Democrats Jason Carter and Tom Stubbs, Independent Steve Patrick and Libertarian David Montane face off May 11 in a special election to fill the state Senate District 42 seat.

The seat was left vacant when David Adelman left the Senate to become U.S. ambassador to Singapore. Georgia Equality endorsed Carter, grandson of Jimmy Carter, based on his support for LGBT issues and outreach to gay voters. Stubbs also competed for the group’s support, has lobbied on gay issues, and is a member of the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats.

Whoever wins May 11, it appears Carter and Stubbs are headed for a rematch. Both have qualified to run for the seat and will face off in the Democratic primary on July 20.

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