Voting Local in the 2020 Primaries

After being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia’s in-person primaries will be held on Tuesday, June 9. While many consider the primaries to be the chance to choose their preferred presidential nominee, their importance extends beyond that. Joe Biden and Donald Trump are the presumptive nominees, so participating in the primaries can seem unimportant, especially in the middle of a global health crisis. However, according to Jeff Graham of Georgia Equality, voting on Tuesday is one of the best ways you can inspire pro-equality change at the local level.

Every election cycle, Georgia Equality endorses local legislative and judicial candidates after sending a survey detailing their legislative and policy agenda to everyone in a race with more than one candidate. Unlike organizations like LGBTQ Victory Fund, Georgia Equality’s mission is not simply to get openly LGBTQ candidates elected. “Our mission is to elect people on a bipartisan manner that we think are going to be the best placed to advance our legislative and policy agenda,” Graham told Georgia Voice. “To have someone who is an out candidate, that oftentimes will work in their favor, but we go towards who is the strongest candidate and who we think has the best chance of winning the race.”

This cycle, Georgia Equality endorsed 23 candidates on the Democratic ballot, six on the nonpartisan ballot, and one Republican:

Cody Smith (R): Out candidate, Senate District 3

Nikema Williams (I): Senate District 39

Kim Jackson: Out candidate, Senate District 41

Michelle Au: Senate District 48

Kyle Rinaudo: House District 35

Erica Thomas (I): House District 39

Josh McNair: Out candidate, House District 56

Park Cannon (I): Out candidate, House District 58

Matthew Wilson (I): Out candidate: House District 80

Becky Evans (I): House District 83

Renitta Shannon (I): Out candidate, House District 84

Karla Drenner (I): Out candidate, House District 85

Michele Henson (I): House District 86

Bee Nguyen (I): House District 89

Rhonda Taylor: House District 91

Marvin Lim: Out candidate, House District 99

Sam Park (I): Out candidate, House District 101

Mac Sims: Out candidate, House District 163

Monique Sheffield: Cobb County Board of Commissioners, District 4

Robert Patrick: DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, District 1

Edward Terry: DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, District 6

Natalie Hall: Fulton County Board of Commissioners, District 4

Curt Thompson: Out candidate, Gwinnett County Commission Chairman

Derrick Wilson: Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, District 3

David Cooke: Macon-Bibb County District Attorney

Seth Clark (nonpartisan): Macon-Bibb County Board of Commissioners, District 5

Lisa Colbert (nonpartisan): Chatham County Superior Court Judge

Aaron Chausmer (nonpartisan): DeKalb County Superior Court Judge

Melynee Leftridge Harris (nonpartisan): Fulton County Superior Court Judge

Rebecca Rieder (I): Fulton County Superior Court Judge

Kathy Schrader (I): Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge

Graham stressed the importance of participating in the primaries to elect LGBTQ-friendly judges and other pro-equality candidates. “There are way more races than just president that are on the ballot,” he said. “This is a critical time to vote for folks who hold your values, believe in prioritizing your rights, and understand your humanity as LGBTQ folks. There are also a number of elections where this is the general election … such as [judicial races]. As LGBTQ Americans, the only rights that have been secured have been through the courts, not through Congress or legislatures. The courts play a very important role in securing and preserving our rights.”

While Georgia Equality-endorsed candidates are pro-LGBTQ, a lack of an endorsement does not indicate that a candidate is anti-LGBTQ. Some candidates were evenly matched with others on LGBTQ issues, and others may not have been able to reply to the survey due to the coronavirus pandemic. To see which candidates will be on your ballot Tuesday, you can visit your My Voter Page at to find a sample ballot.

If you are opting to vote by mail, Graham encourages you to check with your local county board of registration to see where you could drop off your ballot so you don’t have to go in to a polling place. If you are not voting by mail, it is crucial you vote in person on June 9. “It is going to be very important that people come out on the 9th,” Graham said. “I’m going to just encourage people to be very safe about that, to follow the guidelines that are out there. I certainly hope that no one decides not to vote just out of health concerns.”