House District 58 preview

House District 58

The House District 58 campaign pits incumbent Rep. Simone Bell against incumbent Rep. Ralph Long in the Democratic primary due to the Republican redistricting process. The winner on July 31 will face Republican challenger Earl Cooper.

Bell is endorsed by Georgia Equality, Atlanta Stonewall Democrats and the Victory Fund.

Ralph LongState Rep. Ralph Long was first elected to the Georgia House in 2008 and is a licensed real estate broker, owning his own businesses, The District Realty and Mindsweat Properties. He takes a particular interest in trying to rebuild Atlanta neighborhoods, especially Sylvan Hills where he lives.  

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

Education reform, working to remove the 50/50 restriction on MARTA and forming a stronger and more cohesive and modern Democratic Caucus.

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

I was the first elected official on the scene in Pittsburgh after Brandon White was attacked. As soon as I learned about what happened, I recognized that this was a hate crime. All Atlantans, including young gay Atlantans, have a right to safety.

Because I have lived most of my life in Southwest Atlanta, I also recognized that Brandon White’s attack was only able to occur in the manner it did because Pittsburgh is plagued with violence, blight and a lack of code enforcement. We must do a better job of keeping Atlanta safe for all — gay, straight, black, white, young or old — in every quadrant of the city.

I am proud to have co-sponsored my colleague Rep. Rashad Taylor’s hate crimes legislation and cannot wait until it is passed and enacted.

I also showed my commitment to equality by standing up to Georgia Equality for endorsing my opponent without even giving me the courtesy of an interview or a questionnaire.

I am a member of the General Assembly and represent thousands of Georgia. Most importantly, I am a human being with a desire to serve our community. Those facts alone should have made it obvious to Georgia Equality that I deserved equity. Equality must mean equality for all, not just equality when it’s convenient.

Why should LGBT voters vote for you?

I hope the members of the LGBT community vote for me for the same reason that all residents of State House District 58 should vote for me — they will always know where I stand and what I believe in. Whether the issue is strengthening our public schools, fighting crime or bringing economic development to our state, I never shy away from my responsibility to highlight the issues that concern my constituents.

Among those issues is the fight for civil rights for all. I have never voted to discriminate against anyone and never will. My father and aunts integrated many of the major institutions in our state: Georgia Tech, Georgia State and the Atlanta City Council.

I have been taught to fight for equality and fairness since before I understood what those words meant. I bring my family’s values to my work as a legislator.

Simone BellRep. Simone Bell was elected to the Georgia General Assembly after winning a special election in 2009 and has now served three terms in the legislature. With her win in 2009, she became the first African-American out lesbian to win an election to a state legislature.

Before she was elected, Bell worked as a healthcare administrator with Emory University, a community educator with The Health Initiative which serves health needs of LGBT people and also with Lambda Legal, an LGBT nonprofit legal organization.

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

1. Access to quality and affordable health care for all Georgians; 2. Comprehensive anti-bullying legislation; 3. Fair employment protections for the LGBT community

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

1. Running as an out lesbian for elected office
2. Working with both the Health Initiative and Lambda Legal to bring important issues related to LGBT health and civil rights to the larger community
3. Obtaining my B.A. from Agnes Scott College with the generous help of ZAMI, Inc. donors who support out LGBT students who wish to attend college.

Why should LGBT voters vote for you?

I think the voters in House District 58, LGBT and non-LGBT, should vote for me because I have a proven record of leadership in many areas. I have and continue to work for LGBT rights in the South for more than 20 years, as well as advocate for affordable housing, quality education, senior issues and access to quality and affordable healthcare.

I am also committed to women’s issues, and small business economic development. As a result of my experience in these areas, I have created relationships across many lines of difference in the legislature and serve in several leadership roles.

These positions allow me to actually get work done. I know how to fight for the best legislation and I know when to walk away from the table.

Finally, I believe in collaborative leadership which leads to thoughtful and strategic legislation that moves Georgia forward.