House District 56 preview

Campaign opponents are Ken Britt and ‘Able’ Mable Thomas. Both are Democrats and the winner of the July 31 primary will win the seat because there is no Republican opponent in November.

Georgia Equality, Atlanta Stonewall Democrats, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed Britt.

Ken BrittKen Britt is a longtime veteran of Atlanta’s LGBT scene, serving on such boards as AID Atlanta, Georgia Equality and also as co-chair of the national Human Rights Campaign. He was the executive director of the Alston & Bird for nearly 30 years before taking early retirement.

Politically, he worked behind the scenes on successful campaigns for gay candidates Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan and Fulton County Commissioner Joan Garner before deciding to run for District 56 seat left open when Rep. Kathy Ashe decided not to seek reelection. Ashe has endorsed Britt in the campaign.

What are the top three issues you want to support in the General Assembly?

My top three priority issues, among many pressing issues, are economic development including community/neighborhood revitalization and preservation (particularly in the southern areas of District 56); jobs (employment, wages, benefits, opportunity for fair and equal advancement); and improving the quality of education including job training and Vo-Tech-type programs.

Other important issues are transportation, affordable housing, affordable quality healthcare, seniors, civil/human rights and public safety, not necessarily in that order.

Please list your top three accomplishments within the LGBT community or on behalf of LGBT equality.

I have dedicated most of my adult life working to improve the lives of LGBT people; therefore, it’s difficult to pick my “top three accomplishments” as they are all equally important and meaningful to me. My personal mission statement includes serving people who are living with HIV/AIDS, gaining full equality for LBGT people, including marriage equality, and helping LGBTQ youth.

Nevertheless, as my top three accomplishments, I would include my leadership as the chair of the Board of Directors of AID Atlanta, co-chair of the Board of Directors of Georgia Equality, and co-chair of the National Board of the Human Rights Campaign “HRC.” Selecting these three accomplishments in no ways diminishes my other involvement, such as helping to open the Rainbow Home at CHRIS Kids for LGBTQ youth, or being one of the founding members of the Atlanta Executive Network.

Why should LGBT voters vote for you?

I have dedicated most of my adult life to serving the LGBT community …

During the 2011 session of the General Assembly, I served as a full-time volunteer lobbyist representing Georgia Equality and Planned Parenthood, working with former City Council President Cathy Woolard.

I have been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign (which does not typically endorse political candidates in local races), Georgia Equality (I received an early endorsement), The Victory Fund, District 56 incumbent Representative Kathy Ashe, as well as Representative Karla Drenner, Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan and Fulton County Commissioner Joan Garner.

I believe it is important for LGBT voters to know I am not just a gay candidate. I have the experience and a proven track record in business, the community and politics to get the job done. I believe in the strength of building consensus and coalitions. I also believe we must use the political process to gain our full equality while winning hearts and minds one by one.

We must have a place at the table. As someone once told me, “If we’re in the room they are talking with us, if we’re not in the room they are talking about us.” We must be “in the room and at the table” to keep diversity and equality at the forefront of the discussion.

‘Able’ Mable Thomas, a Democrat, entered Georgia’s political scene in 1984 when she won a seat in the Georgia House where she served two terms. In 1997, she won a seat on the Atlanta City Council before seeking a return to the General Assembly in 2000, winning and serving six years.

She gave up her post in the legislature in 2008 to run for Congress against U.S. Rep. John Lewis and was defeated. In 2010, she tried to gain back her seat in the state House but lost to state Rep. Rashad Taylor.

What are the top three issues you want to support in the General Assembly?

Education reform, jobs and economic development.

Please list your top three accomplishments within the LGBT community or on behalf of LGBT equality.

1) Hate crimes legislation (voted in favor); 2) was on the Judiciary Committee and voted in favor of Georgia Health Care Directive Act of 2007; 3) voted in favor of domestic partnership legislation for the City of Atlanta.

Why should LGBT voters vote for you?

As your next representative for District 56, I pledge to continue to fight for freedom, justice, and equality for all Georgians including support for public funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, testing and treatment facilities; free access to HIV/AIDS testing at jail and prison facilities; and support HB 630, the State Fair Employment Practices Act, a bill introduced by Georgia Rep. Karla Drenner (D-86) that would amend state labor laws to add safeguards from discrimination in public employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.