Gay incumbents draw opposition in Nov. 5 election

In Doraville, the first known gay Republican elected to office in Georgia, Brian Bates, faces opposition from Dawn O’Connor, who retired after a 28-year career working for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention as a community liaison in hazardous waste sites. Bates was first elected in 2007 to fill the unexpired term of a council member who resigned to run for mayor. In 2009, Bates was elected to his first four-year term after handily defeating Tom Hart.

In the struggling East Point City Council, gay councilmember Lance Rhodes is not up for re-election. On a controversial note, a recent audit of the city showed no accounting for $200 million the city spent in the past 12 years. The city continues to attract a large gay population: East Point is home of the popular East Point Possums show, a drag show that raises funds for LGBT organizations.

In Pine Lake, the smallest city in DeKalb County, openly lesbian Mayor Kathie deNobriga also is not up for re-election. However, lesbian councilmember Melanie Hammett is not seeking re-election, according to filings with city administrators.

Kecia Cunningham of the Decatur City Commission is also not up for re-election.

Alex Wan’s fi rst term in office has been marked by extreme highs and lows among LGBT constituents and residents. Late last year, he successfully pushed through a resolution supported unanimously by other council members for the City Council to proclaim support for marriage equality.

That resolution eventually landed on Mayor Kasim Reed’s desk. The mayor signed it and he finally came out publicly himself in support of marriage equality after acknowledging his struggle over the issue.

This year, Wan worked hard to rid Cheshire Bridge Road of adult businesses, several popular with LGBT people, and he was accused of betraying his own community. Wan eventually, sort of, apologized after his proposal was defeated in a council vote. He said he never intended to anger the LGBT community and that
he was “sorry if folks feel my targeting the adult businesses has undone all of the community work that I have done for the overall LGBT movement.”

Wan was also on the council during the tough time in Atlanta LGBT history when the city fought plaintiffs suing the city for the unconstitual police raid on the Atlanta Eagle gay bar. The city eventually spent some $3 million in settlements to patrons and employees of the bar as well as an investigations into the raid resulting in several Atlanta police officers being fired.

In his bid for another term, Wan points to the city’s fiscal restraint that led to its cash reserve growing from $7 million to $130 million. Wan also appealed to District 6’s LGBT voters, saying he continues to represent the community in all aspects — from sponsoring the council resolution to support marriage equality and attending Atlanta Pride each year, to sponsoring another resolution approved by council that supports a federal bill to unite LGBT foreign-American couples.

“I have been and will continue to be a strong, vocal and positive advocate for LGBT issues. I have demonstrated in the four years as an Atlanta City Council member that I can deliver on matters that are important to the LGBT community,” Wan said.

Tracey Austin, a business and marketing consultant and mom, said she is running for the District 6 seat because she wants to make her community safer for children. This includes safer streets, more green spaces and recreational facilities, she said.

“I feel a strong sense of responsibility to serve my neighbors, children and parents, families and young professionals in District 6,” she said.

Austin acknowledges she has yet to advocate for LGBT people but looks forward to working toward
human and civil rights if elected.

“I am particularly passionate about the protections of LGBT youth ensuring that schools are including the safety of LGBT youth in the conversation and policies of school safety,” she said.

She is a supporter of marriage equality and said she would advocate for it nationally as well as in Georgia.

At City Hall, Austin said she would work to have the Atlanta mayor and council appoint an “Administrator for Equal Opportunities and Rights” as well as work toward the formation of an LGBT Employees and Allies Network. From this network, she said, referrals would be made of qualified people for board and commissions.

Mike Boyle said he has nothing against Wan personally, and believes his work with the homeless and those with HIV/AIDS is commendable, but believes he could provide stronger leadership.

“As far as his role as a public servant, however, I would have wished for stronger leadership and a stronger vision,” Boyle said. He declined to provide examples of where Wan could have showed stronger leadership, saying his campaign was just kicking off and more was to come.

Boyle is a supporter of marriage equality and said he was also an outspoken advocate for
then U.S. Army Private Bradley Channing, now Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of leaking
classified military information to Wikileakes. Manning stated publicly after her conviction she
is transgender.

“I supported financially and educated many people about her mistreatment during the pretrial
detainment, which amounted to torture under Geneva Convention,” Boyle said.

When Brian Bates took offi ce in 2007, the city already had a domestic partner policy in place. In 2008, the council, under Bates’ leadership, added “sexual preference” — to include gay men and lesbians — in the city’s employee non-discrimination policy. In 2009, the policy was changed to add sexual orientation and also gender identity.

The city has also been focused on infrastructure and economic development including the hiring of a city manager.

“With many of our infrastructure items more stable and professional leadership at city hall, we can now focus on policy and setting an agenda and staff priorities that will help the city grow and continue to move forward, such as economic development, developmental standards, marketing and communication, and improving the overall aesthetics of the community,” he said.

As a retired CDC employee, O’Connor said she is tired of seeing abandoned buildings on Buford Highway and she has the time to put into making Doraville a better community for her grandchildren and future generations.

“I listen to our residents, I go to our council meetings, but yet nothing seems to get done,” she said. “I think I can make a difference. I’m willing to put the time in it.”

She has nothing against Bates, she said.

“It’s not that I don’t think he hasn’t done a good job, but I’m willing to put all the time necessary into

She also supports marriage equality