Queer candidate Park Cannon wins House District 58 race

When Simone Bell resigned from her House District 58 seat last November, the number of LGBT voices left in the Georgia legislature went from three to two. 24-year-old political newcomer Park Cannon just upped that number back to three again on Tuesday night.

Cannon, who identifies as queer, won a runoff for the special election to replace Bell, beating former state Rep. Ralph Long III handily 59 percent to 41 percent. The district covers parts of Old Fourth Ward, Oakland City, Kirkwood, Grant Park, Cabbagetown, Midtown, Mechanicsville, Virginia Highland, Midtown and Sylvan Hills.

Bell handpicked Cannon to make a run to replace her soon after she decided to resign. The women’s wellness advocate racked up a number of endorsements along the way, including those from Georgia Equality, Victory Fund, Georgia Stonewall Democrats, Georgia AFL-CIO, Georgia Federation of Teachers, Atlanta Regional Labor Council, Georgia’s WIN List, and Red Clay Democrats.

A negative mailer sent out by former state Rep. Ralph Long in the final days of the race against Park Cannon.
A negative mailer sent out by former state Rep. Ralph Long in the final days of the race against Park Cannon.

She faced off against Long and attorney Kwame Thompson in the Jan. 19 special election, garnering 47 percent of the vote and sending it to the Feb. 16 runoff. Cannon handily won the fundraising battle, picking up over $34,000 as of a Feb. 12 campaign filing. Long failed to file any campaign disclosure reports during his run.

The race took a turn toward the negative in the final days with Long sending out a mailer (left) that questioned Cannon’s experience, maturity and roots in the district. Cannon issued a statement on the eve of the election denouncing the mailer and taking a “clean campaign pledge,” refusing to take part in any mudslinging. Long’s last-ditch effort didn’t pay off and Cannon took the seat.

It’s not been confirmed yet when exactly she will take office, but when she does Cannon will step into the middle of a legislative session littered with numerous so-called “religious freedom” bills, then after the session ends will turn right back around and start campaigning again for the November election.

UPDATE 3:15 p.m.: Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office tells us the election results must be certified first and then Cannon will pick a time with the House to be sworn in.