The ninth time was the charm for Keisha Waites, a lesbian candidate who appears to have won today's special election for State House District 60.
With 99 percent of percents reporting, unofficial election results from the Georgia Secretary of State's office showed Waites with 54.2 percent of the vote, or 321 votes, compared to 18.6 percent (110 votes) for Theresa Middlebrooks and 27.2 percent (161 votes) for Latrenka Riley.
The campaign was Waites' ninth bid for public office. She has previously sought seats in the Georgia House, Georgia Senate, the Fulton County Commission and the Atlanta City Council.
Election results: Keisha Waites to become fourth openly gay Ga. state legislator
House District 60 includes parts of Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton counties. The seat was held by Democrat Gloria Tinubu, who was sworn in on Jan. 10, 2011. In December, Tinubu announced she was resigning, moving to South Carolina and running for Congress — prompting today’s special election to fill her seat.
Waites will be the fourth openly gay member of the Georgia General Assembly. State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) made history as Georgia’s first openly gay state lawmaker. She was followed by Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta), who also ran for office as an open lesbian. State Rep. Rashad Taylor (D-Atlanta) was already in the state legislature when he came out as gay last year.
Waites is a contract employee with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. She is also a business owner who owns four houses and rents to low-income families. She holds a degree in political science from Georgia Perimeter College and was a track star at Lakewood High School.
She has sought public office in Atlanta for more than a decade. In an interview with GA Voice last month, she said she should not be portrayed simply as a perennial candidate.
“When you ask about my multiple races I just think it’s a no brainer [to keep running for office],” Waites said. “When you take the LSAT and you don’t score a decent or favorable score, do you stop practicing?”
Waites said she has pushed a consistent platform regardless of the office she sought.
“Regardless of the races, my platform has never changed. I have spoken about the significance of protecting Grady Hospital and MARTA. Today, the residents of Clayton County are feeling firsthand the effects of losing MARTA. Clayton County makes up 1/3 of the district,” she said.
Public safety is part of her platform, too, she said, and caring for the elderly.
“I think my multiple offices reflect my commitment and passion for being engaged in the process. I am proud of each of my campaigns.”
In 2001, Waites, who went by Sean instead of Keisha on the ballot at that time, ran for the at-large Post 1 seat on the Atlanta City Council. In 2002, she ran for State Senate District 36, placing fourth in the Democratic primary.
In 2004, she was one of four candidates who applied to temporarily fill the Atlanta City Council District 12 seat, but council members did not pick her for the post. Waites then ran for the Atlanta City Council in 2005 and ran for Fulton County Commission chair in 2006.
She ran for State House District 61 in 2008 and received the endorsement of Georgia Equality in that race. Waites again ran for Atlanta City Council in 2009.
In 2010, she ran against lesbian Joan Garner to become the first openly gay person to serve on the Fulton County Commission; Waites received more votes in the primary but lost to Garner in a runoff. Georgia Equality endorsed Garner.