Runoff elections historically produce low turnout, making the role of those who do show up to the polls in swinging the election one way or another a significant one in deciding the leadership of local, state and national offices. And on July 22 there will be several races featuring LGBT, LGBT-friendly and anti-LGBT candidates that could have an effect on the community’s rights for years to come. Here’s a rundown of the races to reference (including an update on a November race) before you head to the polls.
FULTON SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE
Out lesbian and Fulton magistrate Jane Barwick faces off against attorney Shelitha Robertson in the race to succeed the retiring Fulton County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Wright, also an out lesbian. Superior Court judges mainly preside over civil complaints, real estate disputes and felony cases.
Barwick worked in private practice for two local law firms before branching out in 1995 and starting her own firm concentrating on family law. After six years at the helm, she closed her practice to attend Columbia Theological Seminary where she earned her Master of Divinity degree. She worked as in-house counsel for Atlanta Habitat for Humanity before becoming a magistrate in the Fulton County Family Division in 2012.
Robertson served as an officer with the Atlanta Police Department for 10 years and after completing law school, served as an assistant public defender for the City of Atlanta before moving on to become an assistant city attorney for the city. Robertson ran unsuccessfully for Fulton Superior Court Judge in 2010 and also for Atlanta City Council in 2009.
Robertson gained notice from the LGBT community for helping get the eight employees of the Atlanta Eagle out of jail after they were arrested in a botched raid by the Atlanta Police Department in 2009.
“It was the right thing to do,” Robertson told the GA Voice. “Having been a police officer, having listened to the facts and the issues as they were presented to me, I found there was some concern there. So I stepped in to do what needed to be done and that was get them bonds and allow them to go through the process and they were vindicated. I would do that for anybody.”
Robertson cited the diversity of her experiences when asked what sets her apart from her opponent Barwick, who was not available for an interview as of press time. Neither candidate has received an endorsement from Georgia Equality, Stonewall Democrats or any other LGBT organization.
STATE SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT
Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan takes on former City Schools of Decatur school board member Valarie Wilson for state school superintendent.
Both come armed with LGBT pluses, as Thomas Morgan has the endorsement of Georgia Equality while Wilson’s campaign manager is lesbian state Rep. Simone Bell—a fact Thomas Morgan downplays.
“There’s a difference in getting an endorsement from an organization you’ve been working with for 10 years,” Thomas Morgan told the GA Voice. “I am a friend, I’m an advocate and will stand up for them. Having someone who’s LGBT as campaign manager I don’t think really compares.”
Wilson said she will provide children with a quality public education no matter who they are, especially when it comes to safety.
“The biggest thing for me that I’ve always focused on with all children, and with the LGBT community in particular, has always been around safety and for children to be able to be who they are,” Wilson told the GA Voice. “To make sure we have strong policies and support in terms of bullying. I will always work hard to make sure that happens.”
As far as what sets them apart from each other, Thomas Morgan cited her state policy experience. However, Wilson did serve as president of the Georgia School Boards Association. Wilson cited her experience managing large staffs and budgets, first as director of Fulton County Housing and Human Services and now as executive director of the Atlanta Beltline Partnership.
GEORGIA HOUSE DISTRICT 56
The campaign of openly gay lawyer Randy New of Kitchens New Cleghorn has taken a hit, as he has revealed he will fall short of the number of signed petitions needed to get on the ballot for State House District 56 in November as an independent. New would have faced incumbent and veteran politician “Able” Mable Thomas, a Democrat, in the race.
New needed verified signatures from from 5 percent of registered voters in the district, or roughly 1,400 signatures; the campaign ended up getting about 1,000, New said.
There were two options left to attempt to get on the ballot: wage a write-in campaign or challenge the ballot access in court.
New cites the difficulties inherent in getting so many signed petitions nowadays in his reasoning for a court challenge. The district doesn’t allow online petition signing. A hand-signed petition by registered voters in the district, names, addresses, dates of birth and more is required.
“This statute was passed more than 30 years ago,” New told the GA Voice. “People answered their door 30 years ago. Now? Not so much.”
But his campaign decided it’s too late to start a costly write-in campaign and still have a chance to win, and it’s impossible to fight a court battle while simultaneously trying to run a campaign. But they won’t shut things down just yet.
“We’re going to continue to run a campaign. I will continue to say I am a candidate looking to replace Mable and take that House seat,” New said. “We’re going to do that and we’re going to spend our donors’ money and our supporters’ time and effort in a way that will maximize our chances of winning. It’s more likely than not we will run in 2016.”
Longtime LGBT activist Ken Britt ran for House District 56 in 2012 in his first bid for public office, but lost to Thomas. New is endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
REPUBLICAN U.S. SENATE, 11TH DISTRICT OF U.S. CONGRESS
Former Fortune 500 executive David Perdue is in the midst of a nasty U.S. Senate Republican campaign against U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, a 22-year veteran of Congress. The two have taken repeated shots at each other both on the air with a barrage of negative ads and in person at a July 13 debate. The winner gets the right to face Democrat Michelle Nunn in November’s election to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
Both men oppose marriage equality, while Kingston fought against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and has a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign. Perdue is more of a wild card when it comes to LGBT issues because he doesn’t have a record of votes to run on.
While Nunn supports marriage equality personally, she agrees with last June’s Supreme Court decision that the definition should be left up to the states.
Meanwhile, Bob Barr is trying to make a return to U.S. Congress with a run in Georgia’s 11th Congressional District to replace anti-gay U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey. He faces former State Sen. Barry Loudermilk in the July 22 Republican primary runoff.
Barr authored and sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act, a major portion of which was struck down last June. He ran for president in 2008 as a Libertarian and famously apologized for his role in DOMA’s passage. However, returning to the Republican Party, he now states he personally opposes same-sex marriage and believes the issue should be left up to the states.
Loudermilk has the endorsement of the Family Research Council, which has been classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group.