Two Democrats are fighting 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, are vying for the Democratic nomination in the July 20 primary for the DeKalb district that runs from Interstate 285 near Ashford Dunwoody Road to the intersection of Lavista and Clairmont Road.

Election: Democrats challenge most gay-friendly Republican in Georgia General Assembly

Gross would be the first openly gay man elected to the state House, joining out lesbian Reps. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) and Simone Bell (D-Atlanta).

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.

“If you’re just talking about GLBT issues than it’s probably a toss up,” Murray said. “But when you look at my Democratic opponent I just don’t feel like he has any issues that he’s campaigning on, and my opponent in the general election he’s taken a very anti-business, and growth position.”

Murray has owned several technology and education companies in Atlanta and works as a computer consultant. While supportive of gay issues, she said her main focus would be on bringing jobs to District 80 and making Georgia More business friendly.

This is the second time Gross’ name will appear 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.

Administrative Law Judge Michael Malihi called Gross’s defense of his residency requirements as “evasive,” and ruled Gross had not established a permanent residence in Georgia in 2006. In a statement on his website Gross said he didn’t present evidence of his residency because his lawyer advised him not to, and he is now an unquestionable resident of District 80.

Gross has not responded to interview requests from the Georgia Voice. He is the owner of Sprouts Café near Emory University.

Neither Gross nor Murray returned Georgia Voice’s candidate survey, but both have expressed support for gay and transgender issues. Murray said she supports gay marriage, the recently passed anti-bullying bill, non discrimination laws and expanding healthcare benefits to state workers. Gross expressed similar positions in 2008, but has not clarified his position since.

Jacobs also supports full marriage rights for gay couples.