Runoffs and tough losses for LGBT candidates in Tuesday’s Georgia primaries

The long wait to see Georgia’s first openly gay male elected to the state legislature will continue at least another six months.

11 openly LGBT candidates were in the running in 10 different races in Georgia’s primary elections Tuesday, with all 56 seats in the state Senate and all 180 in the state House up for grabs, along with a few judgeships and county commissioner posts. But there was no opposition in six of those 10 races with LGBT candidates, leaving four races to keep an eye on to see if the state’s LGBT representation would improve.

With no Republican opposition in November in the House District 59 and 62 races, Tuesday could have been the day we finally found out who the first openly gay male elected to the state legislature would be (former state Rep. Rashad Taylor came out in office in 2011 and did not win reelection).

House District 59, which includes East Point, Inman Park, Grant Park, Lakewood Heights, Little Five Points, Poncey-Highland and Reynoldstown, went to a runoff but openly gay pastor Josh Noblitt failed to make the top two and will watch attorney David Dreyer and Janine Brown face off on July 26.


House District 62, which includes portions of College Park, Douglasville, East Point, and portions of Fulton and DeKalb counties, went to a runoff as well, which was expected considering there were six candidates duking it out to replace retiring state Rep. LaDawn Jones. And while openly gay community activist and flight attendant Rafer Johnson missed out on nabbing one of the top two spots, lesbian family law attorney Valerie Vie grabbed the top spot and will face attorney William Boddie, Jr. in the runoff election. If Vie outshines Boddie, she’ll join Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) and Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) as the only openly LGBT members of the Georgia legislature.

Vie and Johnson reacted to the results on Facebook:

We did it! Thank you constituents of District-62.

Posted by Valerie Vie on Wednesday, May 25, 2016


The voters have spoken and we did not win the 2016 primary, congratulations to those in the runoff. I am deeply grateful…

Posted by Rafer Johnson on Tuesday, May 24, 2016


In the other two LGBT races, ally Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta) cruised to victory as expected in House District 56, beating openly gay political newcomer Marckeith DeJesus handily with 78 percent of the vote.

And openly gay family law attorney and Fulton County magistrate Gary Alembik has something to smile about this morning as Eric Dunaway fell just short of getting the 50 percent plus one in the race to replace retiring Fulton County Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob. Dunaway and Alembik, who was endorsed by Georgia Equality, will head to the July 26 runoff.

I am very happy to report that we are in a run off!! Buckle up, and join me on the path to victory. I will be reaching…

Posted by Elect Gary Alembik for Judge in Superior Court Fulton County on Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sidenote: a good sign for Vie but not Alembik, primary runners-up rarely turn into runoff winners. As the AJC pointed out Tuesday, from 2000 through 2014, there were 68 primary runoff elections for federal or statewide races in Georgia and in only eight cases did the leader of the primary end up losing the runoff.

Unopposed LGBT candidates and the top of the ballot

House District 54
District includes: Buckhead and West Midtown
The Lowdown: Openly gay candidate Bob Gibeling was unopposed in the primary election but faces a stiff challenge this November against incumbent Republican Rep. Beth Beskin.

House District 58
District includes: Southwest Atlanta, Downtown, and Midtown
The Lowdown: Openly queer state Rep. Park Cannon had no challengers in this year’s primary and ditto that for November’s general election, so she’ll be elected to her first full two-year term.

House District 60
District includes: Southeast Atlanta, Hapeville, parts of Clayton and DeKalb counties
The Lowdown: Lesbian state Rep. Keisha Waites was unopposed in the primary and is expected to land a third straight term in office when she faces off against Republican truck driver Ralph Nobles in November.

House District 85
District includes: Avondale Estates, Clarkston, Decatur and parts of Belvedere Park and Candler-McAfee
The Lowdown: Lesbian state Rep. Karla Drenner faced no opposition in the primary and will do the same in the general and will be elected to her eighth term in office come November.

Fulton County State Court Judge Jane Morrison had no opposition Tuesday and will serve another term, while her wife, Fulton County Commissioner Joan Garner, will do the same.

Meanwhile, at the top of the ballot, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson trounced his opponents in the GOP primary as expected with 83 percent of the vote. Businessman and headwear enthusiast Jim Barksdale, the Democrats’ handpicked candidate, struggled to avoid a runoff but eked by with 55 percent over Cheryl Copeland’s 35 percent, avoiding what would have been an embarrassing showing.