Gay vs. gay-friendly race turns ugly

Reps. Rashad Taylor and Pat Gardner

State Rep. Rashad Taylor (D-Atlanta), the only openly gay man in the Georgia General Assembly, claims homophobic tactics are being used by his opponents, including distributing what he called an anti-gay flier in predominantly African-American neighborhoods in southwest Atlanta.

The flier, provided to GA Voice by Taylor via email, reads: “The Real Rashad” with a photo of Taylor. Below the photo the flier states: “The only openly gay male in the Georgia General Assembly [AJC 5/27/11]; Accused of using his position in the Legislature to solicit sexual relationships [AJC, 5/27/11]; Former roommates with Khaatim El [APN, 1/20/11]; Possibly lived with a male lover on Moreland Ave [APN, 6/11/12].”

The statements come from articles published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Atlanta Progressive News.

“This could be the most homophobic race in a long time,” Taylor said June 18.

Taylor held a press conference the next morning at the state Capitol to denounce the flier and what he called “homophobic tactics.” He asked his opponent, Rep. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta), to do the same.

“I’m calling on my opponent, Pat Gardner, to denounce these hate-filled, homophobic attacks,” Taylor said June 19. “These attacks are untrue and blatantly false. I never expected this race with Pat Gardner to center on hatred and homophobia.”

While Taylor never directly accused Gardner of creating or distributing the flier, he asked that she investigate the matter to ensure no one from her campaign was involved.

“And I know Pat does not want her south side campaign propped up with such hatred and homophobic tactics,” Taylor said.

Gay vs. gay-friendly get ugly

Gardner faces Taylor in the July primary after Republican-led redistricting in the last session drew the two into the same district. Gardner, an LGBT ally during her 11 years in office, told GA Voice her campaign has nothing to do with the alleged anti-gay flier.

“I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that I’m the one doing the gay baiting,” Gardner said June 19 at an afternoon campaign event at downtown restaurant Paschal’s.

Gardner said that neither she nor her staff were responsible for the flier and said such accusations “make me want to cry.”

“I’m sorry, but I would not do that,” Gardner said.

Taylor also denied any involvement in the distribution of the flier, saying at his press conference that he could “categorically deny any involvement” in the flier’s creation. He also said his staff was in no way responsible.

Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, has not endorsed in this race. Gardner and Taylor have said they are seeking GE’s endorsement.

But if Gardner’s camp didn’t create flier, then who did?

Matthew Cardinale, founder and editor of Atlanta Progressive News, said he was offended that Taylor would imply his publication was involved in the distribution of the anti-gay flier.

“He was saying [at his press conference] that these are the same people and the same publication who are working together and that is absolutely not true,” said Cardinale, who is openly gay. “The idea I would be working to put out a homophobic flier is not true.”

Cardinale said Taylor was attacking his publication by calling it a “gossip” paper and he said he stands by all of his stories, including those that question where Taylor lives and if he does actually live in the district he represents.

GA Voice asked Taylor at his press conference about his residency. Taylor said that he was eligible to run in the race and that anyone could verify his residency with the Secretary of State’s office. A P.O. Box is given as his address on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. Many other candidates also use P.O. boxes as their addresses.

Anti-gay operatives?

Many Democrats cried foul after redistricting resulting from the 2010 Census. Several Democratic incumbents, among them Taylor and Gardner, must now face off in a July primary.

Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham said he saw the flier and was “very deeply disturbed” by its homophobic tone.

“We have not taken an official position on this race but I agree with what Rashad said, and that is knowing Pat and who she is, I cannot believe she is behind this,” Graham said. “I take her at her word that this is very upsetting to her.”

Graham added that the fact there are political operatives in Atlanta who think it is OK to use gay-baiting in a race is “deeply troubling regardless of their motivation.”

“The reason why I’m so troubled is that political operatives are willing to use homophobia to attack candidates. This is not an attack on the candidates but the entire LGBT community and that we are not qualified to hold office, which is entirely untrue,” he added. “Whoever is doing this, regardless of their motivation, should be very ashamed. These attacks are also harmful especially to young people who are struggling with their sexuality.”

Taylor told Gardner outside her campaign event June 19 that while he doesn’t think she is behind the flier, the two disagree on issues.

“But there are some people I’ve had serious political policy disagreements with. And you know, they’ll do anything to win,” Taylor said.

“But why do I get blamed for what they do?” Gardner asked.

“It’s the same thing that happened in the school board race,” Taylor said.

“It’s the same stuff.”

“I had nothing to do with that,” Gardner responded.

Taylor was a supporter of candidate Angela Brown in December’s Atlanta Board of Education primary. Brown was allegedly the target of a similar flier that called into question the character of her supporters as well as her support of LGBT issues. Among those listed were state Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) and Taylor.

“Please call me if there’s something you think I’m doing,” Gardner said as she began to walk away.

Taylor, answering a question from one of Gardner’s supporters, said he wanted to run a civil campaign while focusing on the issues.

“I’m saying, let’s focus our campaigns on the issues,” Taylor said.

“Like what?” Gardner asked.

“Well, one of them is Fulton County,” Taylor said.

“You think I’m in favor of Milton County?” Gardner asked.

“You’ve been right along with the Republicans in their attempts to control Fulton,” Taylor responded.

“That’s a lie,” one of Gardner’s campaign staffers responded. “Let’s go, let’s go.”

Milton County was a Georgia county that was absorbed into Fulton in 1932.

Some Republicans in the General Assembly want to allow Milton to reform, meaning some of the area’s largest cities, like Roswell, Sandy Springs and Alpharetta, would contribute tax to Milton instead of Fulton.

Secession would leave Fulton without a substantial residential and retail tax base in its northern neighborhoods, something Fulton’s Democrats want to avoid.

Taylor claimed that Gardner would support such a split, but Gardner took the opposite position while discussing the issue with reporters at Paschal’s, saying she is in favor of keeping Fulton whole.

Rep. Rashad Taylor calls on opponent to condemn alleged anti-gay campaign flyer

Rep. Pat Gardner responds to opponent’s claim of alleged anti-gay campaign flyer

Rep. Rashad Taylor crashes Rep. Pat Gardner’s media conference


Top photo: State Rep. Rashad Taylor (right) confronts state Rep. Pat Gardner (center) in the Paschal’s parking lot about an anti-gay fl ier. Gardner denied any involvement. (by Ryan Watkins)