On Nov. 5, a rainbow wave took over not only the country, but Georgia as well. Nationally, at least 144 openly LGBTQ candidates won their local elections, many of whom were endorsed by Victory Fund, an organization working to build LGBTQ political power by getting LGBTQ politicians elected. Elected candidates of those endorsed include Georgia local Andy Yeoman, who won a seat on the Doraville City Council representing District 1.
Yeoman was also one of the ﬁve candidates endorsed by Georgia Equality to win their elections, along with John Ernst for mayor of Brookhaven, Madeleine Simmons for Brookhaven City Council District 3, Keisha Gibson-Carter for Savannah City Council At-Large Post 1, and Linda Wilder-Bryan for Savannah City Council District 3. Georgia Equality endorsed these candidates based on their perceived ability to advance LGBTQ policies.
One other local LGBTQ politician took home the win Tuesday – without endorsements from Victory Fund or Georgia Equality. Bill Grant, an out gay man from Canton, Georgia, won his race, becoming the mayor of what he calls “the coolest small town in America.” Grant previously served as Canton City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem from 2014 to 2019 and has been happily married to his husband Jeff since 2017.
While Canton’s municipal elections are nonpartisan, Grant was challenged by a “self-labelled ‘Conservative choice, strong family man,’” he told Georgia Voice in an email. His opponent, Dwight Pullen, had backing from the Cherokee County Republican Party and Presidents Team, Trump’s reelection organization.
“[Pullen’s campaign] went door-to-door and made personal calls to every registered Republican in the city to tell them to save Canton from the liberal gay male and protect the future for their children,” Grant said. “I stuck to my record of achievement here in Canton and a very positive message of inclusion.”
His message worked; despite Pullen’s tactics, Grant took home the victory in a landslide with about 75 percent of the votes: 1,939 of the more than 2,600 votes cast. With his new position as mayor, Grant hopes to continue the conversation around diversity and inclusion in his hometown of 23 years.
“The citizens of Canton are truly warm, welcoming, and open minded,” he told Georgia Voice. “Throughout the campaign, I met several LGBTQ teenagers, and many adults, who told me that they felt hopeful for the future of Canton for the very ﬁrst time. They never imagined they would ever see a gay man elected mayor in their lifetime.”
But Grant emphasized that he’s more than his sexuality – and the voters knew that, too. “I did not run as a gay man or with a gay agenda,” he said. “I ran as a dedicated public servant who has worked hard to move Canton forward, and I have a vision for making our city even better in the future. None of that has anything to do with my sexuality, and that is where my opponent got it wrong. I hope my tenure as mayor will continue to show others that sexuality should not even be part of the
conversation when it comes to candidates or their qualiﬁcations for public service.”
As for the future of Canton, Grant has big plans he hopes to enact once he’s sworn in on Jan. 2. “[M]y goal is to create a citywide Master Plan [that] will provide a road map for guiding development, improving our infrastructure, recalculating our zoning ordinances, and making the necessary calculated trade-offs to ensure quality-over-quantity growth,” he said.
“Other than that, it’s pretty simple: we are going to see Canton become the Coolest Small Town in America, and I believe we are well on our way.”
November 22: The original article labelled Bill Grant as the first openly gay mayor to be elected in Georgia when he was not.