With 100 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial election results from Fulton County showed Waites in first place with 41.45 percent and Garner in second with 39.50 percent. David Holder had 9.7 percent and Sally Smith had 9.35. Only 168 votes separated Waites and Garner.
If no candidate receives 50 percent plus one vote, the top two advance to a runoff on Aug. 10.
Garner was endorsed by three LGBT groups — Georgia Equality, the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats and the Victory Fund, a national organization that supports LGBT candidates.
Should either Garner or Waites win, she would be the first openly gay representative on the Fulton County Commission.
Garner, a longtime activist who worked for Mayor Maynard Jackson as senior adviser on gay and lesbian issues, is principal of Garner Results Inc., a nonprofit and philanthropic consulting firm.
Waites works for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and has a long record of seeking elected office.
In 2001, Waites – who went by Sean instead of Keisha on the ballot at that time – ran for the at-large Post 1 seat on the Atlanta City Council.
In 2002, she ran for State Senate District 36, placing fourth in the Democratic primary.
In 2004, she was one of four candidates who applied to temporarily fill the Atlanta City Council District 12 seat, but council members did not pick her for post.
Waites then ran for the Atlanta City Council in 2005 and ran for Fulton County Commission chair in 2006.
She ran for State House District 61 in 2008 and received the endorsement of Georgia Equality in that race. Waites again ran for Atlanta City Council in 2009.
“I’m proud of every race I’ve been in and I believe it shows I’m committed to the process and have a strong desire to serve,” she told the Georgia Voice shortly after qualifying for this year’s ballot.
Because no Republicans qualified, the Democratic primary and runoff will effectively decide who gets the seat.