History is made in Atlanta as the Victory Fund-endorsed Joan P. Garner, an openly lesbian African-American, won her run-off election for a seat on the Fulton County Commission. Because no Republican or independent candidates qualified for the November ballot, Garner effectively becomes the first openly LGBT member of the commission.
Garner will represent District 6, which is downtown Atlanta. Garner won 64% of the vote against 36% for challenger Keisha Waites, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "I am both humbled and honored that my friends and neighbors in District 6 gave me their vote of confidence," Garner said last night. "I look forward to serving as their voice in the Fulton County government."
Garner boasts more than two decades in politics and non-profits, most recently serving as president and CEO of the Historic District Development Corporation, a nonprofit that facilitates the preservation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic District. "Garner also served on the transition team of Mayor Maynard Jackson, who later appointed her as a senior advisor on gay and lesbian issues," writes Project Q Atlanta. "That appointment was the first high-level LGBT position created by an Atlanta mayor. "
The District 6 race was historical in more ways than one: Joan Garner and Keisha Waites are both openly lesbian Black women. But the LGBT vote did not split, reports Georgia Voice. "While Waites won the endorsement of the Atlanta Eagle, after helping the sister of one of the gay bar’s owners, Garner had the solid support of all three LGBT political groups that made endorsements in the race: Georgia Equality, Atlanta Stonewall Democrats and the Victory Fund, a national group that backs qualified LGBT candidates." Garner also had the support of the AFL-CIO.
Waites, who has unsuccessfully run for office seven times since 2001, "avoided interviews with gay media outlets... and has yet to spell out where she stands on specific LGBT issues." In contrast, Garner supports all LGBT platform issues, such as a statewide hate crimes law, workplace non-discrimination protections, repealing the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and gay adoptions.
Atlanta, which is often called the 'Black Gay Mecca', is becoming a powerhouse for Black openly lesbian political candidates. Last December, Simone Bell was elected the first openly lesbian black state legislator in U.S. history. In 1999, Kecia Cunningham was elected Decatur City Commissioner and became the first Black openly gay elected official in Georgia.