When State Rep. Karla Drenner recently endorsed Elena Parent over openly gay candidate Kyle Williams in the state Senate race to replace Jason Carter, it kickstarted a community dialogue: how much should sexual orientation play into political endorsements?

As far as Drenner is concerned, very little.

“I don’t endorse people because of their sexual orientation,” Drenner told GA Voice. “I do agree that we need more gay candidates and more gay elected people. But I served with Elena Parent and she is the candidate for this particular job.”

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Drenner cited Parent’s experience serving in the state House for a term, as well as the fact that she stepped aside in 2012 after Republican redistricting combined hers and state Rep. Scott Holcomb’s districts.

“For her to step back and not run for the greater good? I thought she deserved another chance,” Drenner said.

The longtime state House representative also points out that she has been in Williams’ shoes before.

“When I first ran, Georgia Equality didn’t endorse me but I was gay. And there were gay people that supported my straight opponent,” she says. “I went through that whole experience of ‘They should help me because I’m gay’ and then I realized that’s not it ― there’s more to the story than sexual orientation or race or gender,” she said.

For his part, Williams has high praise for Drenner and didn’t sound surprised by her endorsing Parent.

“Karla’s a friend and I consider her a mentor. She clearly paved the way not only for me but for LGBT political advances in this state,” Williams said.

“I have tremendous respect for her and for her service and leadership. I know my competitor will rely on her colleagues from the Gold Dome. We’re focusing on the voters from district 42. I’ve been here for a decade, and I’m showing them that I’m the candidate for this district,” he said.

And Williams isn’t lacking for endorsements on his end, with a strong mix of politicians and business and community leaders lining up for him.

As of now there are no Republican challengers for the seat, so Parent and Williams will face off in the May 20 Democratic primary to see who represents District 42 in the state Senate.

No openly gay men have been elected to the Georgia legislature despite several attempts. There are currently three lesbians serving — Drenner, who was first elected in 2000; an state Reps. Simone Bell and Keisha Waites.

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