With the official qualifying period winding down for candidates who want to run for seats in the Georgia General Assembly, at least two gay-friendly incumbents face challengers who are also drawing gay support.
Fort, Chambers face challengers as General Assembly races take shape
Georgia’s two openly gay state lawmakers, Reps. Karla Drenner (D-Atlanta) and Simone Bell (D-Atlanta), are running for re-election. As of Wednesday afternoon, neither had drawn a challenger. At least three other gay candidates are running for General Assembly this year.
Several other races could divide gay voters as they pit gay rights allies against challengers who are also seeking gay support.
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.
“(Chambers) has to tread carefully, and gay issues is not an area where she will, or has ever, proactively gone to bat for the issues that the gay community cares about,” Parent said. “She was able that one time six years ago to play defense, but I can play offense and be a voice for GLBT equality every day.”
Chambers said she is seeking re-election because she is now in the position to carry significant legislation such as the “Hustler Bill,” that would bar police from releasing nude pictures of murder victims.
Chambers said her track record shows her to be an ally to the gay voters in her district, and most of her work is fiscal, not social in nature.
“My voters, whether they’re gay or straight, don’t want me to run on gay issues, they want me to run on fiscally conservative issues,” she said.
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. Political blog Georgia Politics Unfiltered noted that Balch received a donation from “Balch’s LGBT city council representative in Atlanta.”
The blog doesn’t name the representative, but campaign disclosure reports show Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan, who is gay, donated $150 to Balch’s campaign.
Balch has also drawn support from two gay politicos in East Point. Former East Point Council member Kevin Hudson donated $200 to his campaign, while former City Council candidate Ken deLeon donated $101.
Balch’s donors also include former Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders, who was endorsed by several gay groups in her unsuccessful bid for Atlanta mayor last year. Borders donated $250.
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.