The race to replace state Rep. Ladawn Blackett Jones in House District 62 just got more interesting as Georgia Voice has learned that lesbian family law attorney Valerie Vie has jumped in, joining gay flight attendant and community advocate Rafer Johnson and three other candidates. The five Democrats will face off in a May 24 primary.
Vie lists education, increasing the minimum wage and cityhood as the major issues of her campaign, along with her opposition to Senate Bill 129, state Sen. Josh McKoon’s (R-Columbus) so-called “religious freedom” bill.
The political newcomer cites the bill’s supporters’ unwillingness to add a non-discrimination clause as an area of concern.
“I think when we’re not specific, any bill…that you have and there’s language that will assure that certain fears would not happen and you refuse to put in the language, you always have to look at the intent of the bill,” she tells Georgia Voice in an exclusive interview. “Because if this is a bill that’s genuinely for the good, if we do not want to put in language that assures certain things don’t happen, it just gives a look that is not as proprietary as we would need it to be.”
Vie says the fact that she’d be facing off against another gay candidate didn’t cause her any hesitation about jumping into the race.
“I don’t think that this race is going to be run by who’s gay and who’s straight,” she says. “I think it’s going to be run by who presents the issues objectively, and I’m not sure everyone feels that the plans or the positions have been projected objectively and that’s what I want to do.”
Vie and Johnson will face off against Aaron Johnson, a staff member for Fulton County Chairman John Eaves, attorney William Boddie, Jr. and Larry Perkins, Jr.
Vie is the fifth openly LGBT candidate to make a run for office in 2016. 24-year-old queer woman Park Cannon is running to replace former state Rep. Simone Bell in a special election in House District 58 on Jan. 19. Johnson and minister Josh Noblitt are running in District 62 and District 59, respectively. And Marckeith DeJesus will face off against incumbent state Rep. Mable Thomas in District 56.
If elected, DeJesus, Johnson and/or Noblitt would become the first openly gay men elected to the Georgia legislature. Former Rep. Rashad Taylor came out while in office in 2011, but subsequently lost in 2012 after redistricting pitted him against state Rep. Pat Gardner (an LGBT ally) in House District 57.
Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) and Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) remain the only openly LGBT members of the state legislature and both have reelection campaigns this year.