Controversial presidential race overshadowing important LGBT Georgia races

Border walls. Pneumonia. The troops. Deplorables. Fingers on the button. Assaults at rallies. And as Bernie Sanders would put it, those “damn emails.”

The American public has been inundated with an amount of drama perhaps never before seen in a presidential election. Lost in the shuffle however are the number of down-ballot races that can have an even bigger impact on voters’ everyday lives than a presidential race. And there are LGBT candidates and allies with much at stake who are being drowned out by the noise.

Here’s a look at the races of interest to Georgia’s LGBT voters. We’ve got word from Georgia Equality and Georgia Stonewall Democrats that endorsements will be announced in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out here for those as well as a deeper dive on individual races and issues.

U.S. Senate

Democratic newcomer Jim Barksdale has been polling around 10 to 12 points lower than his incumbent Republican opponent Sen. Johnny Isakson. But experts aren’t counting Barksdale out just yet due to the possibility of disaffected anti-Trump Republicans staying home on November 8. Barksdale has largely stayed out of the spotlight throughout the election so it’s unclear just how strongly he will go to bat for Georgia’s LGBT community, but he does confirm he is against North Carolina’s anti-LGBT House Bill 2.

House District 54

Openly gay candidate Bob Gibeling, treasurer of the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Georgia, has an uphill battle to fight against incumbent Republican Rep. Beth Beskin. If he’s able to pull out a win, he would become the first openly gay male to be elected to the Georgia legislature—Rashad Taylor was outed while in office and did not win reelection. A June 30 campaign disclosure report shows he has raised $21,000 and has $20,000 on hand. Beskin meanwhile has raised $203,222 and has $61,000 on hand as of August 2. HD54 includes Buckhead and West Midtown.

House District 58

Openly queer state Rep. Park Cannon can rest easy in HD58, which includes southwest Atlanta, downtown and Midtown. She beat former state Rep. Ralph Long in a special election runoff in February to replace Simone Bell, who resigned last November. Cannon had no challengers in the May primary nor has any challengers in November’s general election. Meanwhile, she’s been busy campaigning hard for Hillary Clinton, making appearances with openly gay former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank in July, snagging a speaking role later that week at the Democratic convention and taking part in a Millennials for Hillary effort earlier this week.

House District 60

Lesbian state Rep. Keisha Waites technically has opposition in this district covering southeast Atlanta, Hapeville and parts of Clayton and Dekalb counties. But she is expected to land a third straight term in office when she faces off against Republican truck driver Ralph Nobles in November. For what it’s worth, Waites had raised $2,350 and had $2,100 on hand as of June 30, while Nobles had raised no money and was $114 in the hole.

House District 80

Now this is the one to watch. Rep. Taylor Bennett made his opposition to anti-LGBT so-called “religious freedom” legislation the centerpiece of his successful campaign in last year’s election for this Republican-leaning Brookhaven district. It was personal to him, seeing as his mother and sister are both lesbians. Bennett had raised $41,500 and had $32,200 as of June 30, with his Republican challenger Meagan Hanson raising $74,000 and having $22,000 on hand as of July 26. The Georgia GOP would love to get this seat back so if you’re in Brookhaven, you’ve probably got mail for the next two months.

House District 85

Lesbian state Rep. Karla Drenner isn’t going anywhere. She faced no opposition in the May primary and has no opposition in the general and will be elected to her eighth term in office come November. HD85 includes Avondale Estates, Clarkston, Decatur and parts of Belvedere Park and Candler-McAfee.

UPDATE 9/22/16: House District 101

One more LGBT candidate is in the running this November. Attorney Sam Park joins Bob Gibeling as the two openly LGBT males running for the state legislature, and either of them would make history by pulling out a win. Park, a Democrat, is running against retired educator Valerie Clark, a Republican running on lowering taxes and transportation issues.  The latest campaign disclosure report shows Park with $20,100 in contributions and $16,600 on hand while Clark has raised $48,500 and has $45,300 on hand. HD101 includes Lawrenceville and Suwanee.

2016 Election Key Dates
Voter Registration Deadline: Oct. 11, 2016
Early Voting Starts: Oct. 17, 2016
Election Day: Nov. 8, 2016
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