LGBT candidates come up short in Tuesday runoff elections

It was another rough night for LGBT candidates in Georgia on Tuesday as both in the running lost, with all six of statewide LGBT advocacy organization Georgia Equality’s endorsed candidates coming up short as well.

Valerie Vie, a lesbian family law attorney, garnered 37 percent of the vote to attorney William Boddie Jr.’s 63 percent in the race in House District 62, which includes portions of College Park, Douglasville, East Point, and portions of Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Vie emerged from a crowded field in the May 24 primary that included openly gay community activist and flight attendant Rafer Johnson and had hoped to snag a coveted seat on the House Judiciary Committee with a win Tuesday—there is no Republican opposition in November so a win Tuesday would have made her the fourth openly LGBT lawmaker in the state legislature. But Boddie came out on top, no doubt due in part to a three-to-one fundraising margin. Vie congratulated Boddie on the win via her Facebook page late Tuesday night.

The other race with an openly LGBT candidate was for Superior Court judge in Fulton County. Openly gay family law attorney, Fulton County magistrate and hearing officer Gary Alembik lost to Eric Dunaway on Tuesday by a 12-point margin. If elected, Alembik would have been the second openly LGBT Superior Court judge in Fulton County (joining Jane Barwick) and the first openly gay male

In an interview with Georgia Voice last week, Alembik pointed out the size of Fulton County as one of the challenges of the campaign, saying that while he’d been knocking on doors as much as he could, he’d had to rely on mailers and robocalls to reach people.

“We’re talking a million people from top to bottom in 75 miles,” Alembik said. “So it’s difficult to touch everybody on a personal level. With a House race it’s more achievable because you have a defined area and it’s very achievable to go to every neighborhood but I just can’t. So it’s a challenge because people frankly don’t know who they’re voting for when they vote for a judge.”

Georgia Equality endorsements fall short and a look ahead to November

Georgia Equality had endorsed Vie, Alembik and four other candidates for the July 26 runoffs, all of whom lost. The race for the Senate District 43 was a particularly brutal loss for Georgia Equality pick Dee Dawkins-Haigler, who currently represents House District 91 and was hoping to make the jump to the Senate. Dawkins-Haigler lost by just eight votes to Tonya Anderson with a total turnout of 8,532, showing the impact of each vote in runoff elections, which have historically low turnout.

Dawkins-Haigler stood alongside the three openly LGBT lawmakers in the House plus House ally Taylor Bennett to voice opposition to the anti-LGBT so-called “religious freedom” bill HB757 at a press conference last March at the state Capitol. The measure passed both chambers but was later vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

The Georgia Stonewall Democrats endorsed five candidates in Tuesday’s runoffs, with Keith Gammage’s win for Fulton County Solicitor General being the only one of the five. Georgia Equality endorsed Gammage’s opponent Clint Rucker.

Now it’s on to the general elections in November where there are several other openly LGBT candidates in the running. Those facing no opposition and are guaranteed another term include state Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta), state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), Fulton County State Court Judge Jane Morrison and Fulton County Commissioner Joan Garner. State Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) faces Republican truck driver Ralph Nobles in House District 60 but is expected to land a third straight term. So the race of interest concerning LGBT candidates is House District 54, where openly gay candidate Bob Gibeling faces a stiff challenge against incumbent Republican Rep. Beth Beskin and hopes to become the first openly gay male to be elected to the Georgia legislature.