Waites won a special election on Feb. 7 to represent District 60, which includes parts of Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton counties.

The special election was to fill a seat vacated by Democrat Gloria Tinubu, who was sworn in on Jan. 10, 2011. In December, Tinubu announced she was resigning, moving to South Carolina and running for Congress. Waites will have to run for election again in November; qualifying is in May.

The campaign was Waites’ ninth bid for public office. She has previously sought seats in the Georgia House, Georgia Senate, the Fulton County Commission and the Atlanta City Council.

“Many people believe this was a 30 day election cycle, but for all of you here today, you know that isn’t true. This has been a long journey. I wish to thank the many dedicated loyal volunteers that have supported me the past 11 years,” Waites said after the ceremony.

She also thanked Rev. Dr. Mitzi Bickers, who is openly gay and a former president of the Atlanta School Board. Bickers is a pastor and also works for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

“Every time I called her screaming and crying and upset, she would tell me we would be OK,” Waites added.

Waites is the fourth openly gay member of the Georgia General Assembly. State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) made history as Georgia’s first openly gay state lawmaker. She was followed by Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta), who also ran for office as an open lesbian. State Rep. Rashad Taylor (D-Atlanta) was already in the state legislature when he came out as gay last year.

Waites is a contract employee with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. She is also a business owner who owns four houses and rents to low-income families. She holds a degree in political science from Georgia Perimeter College and was a track star at Lakewood High School.

Top photo: Keisha Waites

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