Friday, September 25, 2009

Atlanta Stonewall Democrats 2009 Endorsements

As a board member of the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats, I wanted to share our press release regarding endorsements in Atlanta city elections, along with the special election in State House District 58 and Decatur City Commission. I believe the release speaks for itself.


Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 – ATLANTA – Atlanta Stonewall Democrats announces endorsed candidates in Atlanta Mayor and City Council races as well as State House District 58.

Our Process: Candidates for Mayor, City Council President, City Council, Decatur Commission, School Board and State House District 58 were sent an email upon closing of qualifying for their respective offices directing them to where they could find the 2009 Endorsement Questionnaire from Atlanta Stonewall Democrats (ASD). While some candidates chose not to seek our support, many others did. The answers to our questions revealed a broad spectrum of responses, not only on LGBT Equality issues, but also on questions regarding knowledge of their district, the problems to be solved, and what they as an elected official would and could do to address the needs o f their constituents.

Atlanta Stonewall Democrats was generally pleased with the candidate responses. Indeed, in some races there was more than one excellent candidate. The focus among almost all candidates seemed to be on Public Safety/Crime and Economic Development/Jobs. Although responses and approaches to these two areas varied, there was a general feeling that nearly all candidates in the various races understand the overwhelming pressure and influence these two issues are placing on our city’s residents, elected officials and civil service employees.

Some candidates did falter on an overall understanding of the LGBT communities and the fact that our communities share a common interest with other Atlanta communities. Focusing solely on LGBT issues would be appropriate if LGBT issues were ASD’s only mission. But it is important to know that the members of Atlanta Stonewall Democrats not only advocate for LGBT Equality inside the Democratic Party, we are also involved in matters of equality and fairness for all. We are actively connected to the Democratic Party and to the diverse coalitions that make up the Atlanta Progressive Community. Some of the candidates recognized this connection and addressed their responses in a way that showed ASD’s board that they clearly understood the overall mission of Atlanta Stonewall Democrats. Sadly, other candidates did not.

The Atlanta Stonewall Democrats is dedicated to engaging in conversation with traditionally Democratic constituency groups and potential allies of the LGBT community. We recognize that the road to equality must be paved by fair-minded Democrats.

The work of Atlanta Stonewall Democrats is based on a long-term strategy, rooted in coalition-building and grassroots organizing, to move us forward in building a fair-minded Democratic majority in Georgia.

We are an affiliate of National Stonewall Democrats, a nation-wide, grassroots federation of more than 90 other LGBT Democratic chapters. We are committed to working closely with other LGBT organizations, along with our allies in progressive communities and traditionally Democratic constituency groups to build a fair-minded Democratic majority in Georgia.

After much deliberation, and a thorough review of answers from candidates, the board of Atlanta Stonewall Democrats is pleased to offer the following endorsements in advance of elections to be held on November 3rd, 2009:


ASD was impressed with the problem-solving ideas put forward by many of the candidates for Mayor, but one candidate stood out not only in presenting his forward-thinking solutions for the ills and concerns of the City of Atlanta, but in a knowledge of and past dedication to the LGBT Communities and concern for the greater good of all Georgians.

Kasim Reed has spent the last 11 years representing Atlanta in both houses of the Georgia General Assembly. During that time in office, he has a 100% voting record from Georgia Equality and other LGBT-advocacy organizations. He has delivered concrete results and advanced progressive policies to level the playing field and give more protections to the LGBT community. As a State Representative, he was the chief House sponsor for Georgia’s Hate Crimes Bill that included protections for LGBT individuals, and fought to keep those protections over the objections of a number of Republican and Democratic legislators. He secured state funding for an LGBT tourism study for the City of Atlanta, and feels that Atlanta needs to invest in more aggressive marketing to solidify Atlanta’s standing as an LGBT destination in light of strong competition from other cities. He also believes that Atlanta should have an entertainment district that would allow us to truly be a 24 hour international city.

We are aware that Kasim has stated his support of civil unions with full benefits. However, Kasim has proven his commitment to full legal equality for same sex couples when he led the effort in the State Senate against the Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage. He has also been a key ally working with Rep. Karla Drenner to stop attempts to ban gay adoption in Georgia. During the last legislative session, he sponsored and passed legislation that now requires Georgia to test prisoners exiting the state’s penal system for HIV/AIDS and to provide counseling. This will help prisoners know their health status and seek the help they need before they are released. Kasim’s statement on the Eagle raid made clear that he would not tolerate a police department that violates the civil rights of any citizen. He vows to continue to work equally as hard when Mayor to ensure that LGBT citizens are all treated fairly and equally.

What earns Kasim our endorsement in a race where nearly all the candidates voice support for LGBT equality is performance over promises. We value his strong record in the legislature, his status as one who can bring a fresh, outsider’s vision to a city government that has largely broken down, and his proven ability to establish productive relationships with a Republican state legislature and governor. As Atlanta attempts to recover from the current financial struggles, Kasim’s solid leadership, proven results and knowledge of all levels of government are what Atlanta needs in a Mayor.

Kasim has also received the endorsement of the Atlanta Progressive Firefighters; openly lesbian State Rep. Karla Drenner; State Representatives Kathy Ashe, Roger Bruce, Rashad Taylor, and Rahn Mayo; State Senators Horacena Tate, Nan Orrock, David Adelman, Valencia Seay, and Minority Leader Robert Brown; the Sunday Paper; Ambassador Andrew Young; and the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council AFL-CIO.


Caesar Mitchell is currently a City Councilman At-Large. He has long worked to cultivate a strong relationship with LGBT Atlantans, promoting various non-profit and civic engagements devoted to civil rights. Caesar is strongly committed to protecting existing domestic-partner benefits for Atlanta city employees, while also working proactively to urge the state Legislature to pass anti-bullying legislation. Caesar also recognizes that the city has room for improvement in how it supports transgender Atlantans through municipal policies, and supports improving those policies as City Council President.


Adam brings a forward thinking, fresh outlook to City operations. Having organizational experience from his IBM career, he is already proposing ways to make the City Council and its operations more open, honest and transparent for city residents. A well qualified candidate, who happens to be gay, he is one of the more impressive and aggressive thinkers on the campaign trail. With his ear to the ground from neighborhood meetings and community involvement, he has focused on what people want: safer streets, a city government that can manage its finances, and productive, efficient and responsive services. His expertise in analyzing the efficiency of government service delivery will be a welcome addition to the Council.

Adam has received the endorsement of the Victory Fund.


Aaron has served on the Atlanta School Board both as a member and as Board President. He has proven his commitment to equality in this difficult arena as well as scored 100% on our survey. His Board service also included chairing the critical Finance Committee and overseeing an annual operating budget of $450 million and a capital improvement budget of $430 million, funds used to build new schools, renovate decaying ones, and install modern information technology for all students. Aaron’s elected office experience shows how he understands budgeting, the effective implementation of accountability standards and the need to fulfill a group leadership role. Since his school board service, Aaron has most recently been working on the challenges of establishing sensible transportation options. He seeks to link neighborhoods, promote smart land use, controlled housing density and establishing protected green space.


LaShawn has received recognition as one of Atlanta's most distinguished young civic leaders. He is a consummate community advocate who also serves as the CEO of the Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association, one of the more successful neighborhood-based community development corporations. He is a former chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit-V and has served on numerous community boards in both Atlanta and Fulton County, including the local school council boards for C.L. Gideons Elementary School and W.L. Parks Middle School and the Atlanta Citizen Review Board. In addition to scoring 100% on our survey, LaShawn brings true grassroots energy and leadership abilitiesto a Council that could use a good dose of both.


Since the election of Cathy Woolard to this seat in 1997, District 6 has been known as the “Gay Seat” on City Council. With 6 candidates in the race, three of them gay, there is no guarantee that the seat will remain “gay”. LGBT voters need to consider not just the sexual orientation of a candidate, but who is qualified and can win. We believe Steve Brodie is the strongest candidate in this race, having run in 2005 and coming within a handful of votes of election. He is a gay candidate who has been actively involved in issues that directly affect the interest of the voters, gay and straight: public safety, zoning, land use, the BeltLine, and the budgeting process. He has worked to prioritize public safety for major events in Piedmont Park, fix miles of sidewalks, and he successfully represented the neighborhood positions on land use issues. Steve played a significant leadership role in the start-up of the Safety Committee and Neighborhood Watch Program in Candler Park, and was a leader and fundraiser for the Midtown “Light the Streets” program. Many candidates who run for public office and do not win often get discouraged and disappear. Steve Brodie has remained deeply engaged in the community and the District he seeks to represent.

Another issue of concern in the District is a vibrant nightlife. When Steve was first elected to the MNA Board of Directors and the NPU-E Board as the representative for Midtown, both boards had a strong contingency that were dedicated to the closure of gay bars. He was a forceful advocate for complete cessation of these actions and was able to create a majority to take all closure/harassment actions off the agendas of the organizations. He spoke out when anti-gay activists directly attacked African-American LGBT citizens in Piedmont Park on Sundays, even though some thought his position put him at political risk.

Although our constituency forms the heart of District 6, Steve is not just an LGBT advocate. He understands that the issue of crime affects all residents, and has a track record of working successfully on this issue. As a city council member, he will be best able to move the levers of city government to keep those issues on the front burner of the new Council and Mayor’s agenda. Of all the candidates, he has done the best job of laying out specific ideas on public safety and suggesting concrete actions needed to fund improvements.

Steve has received the endorsement of the Atlanta Police Union, and the Sunday Paper.


Simone is running for the recently vacated District 58 seat that serves portions of incorporated east-central Atlanta in both Fulton and DeKalb counties, plus adjacent portions of unincorporated DeKalb County. She has been a resident of Atlanta for 20 years and of District 58 for 10 years. She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and has spent the majority of her working life as a community organizer with local non-profit organizations.

Simone has worked as an activist and advocate in Atlanta and across the South for more than 20 years. Her education and work in health care, experience advocating for women’s health, African American and LGBT rights at ZAMI, the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative and Lambda Legal have all given her the tools and perspective to advocate on behalf of the residents of District 58. When elected, Simone will be the first openly gay African-American woman State Representative in the United States. Considering her experience, broad knowledge of quality of life issues, commitment to the under-represented and community involvement, Simone is uniquely ready for this position.

She has also received the endorsement of Georgia Equality and Victory Fund.


At the age of 32, Kyle is already an accomplished community leader. He has held leadership positions in groups like the Red Clay Democrats and Generation Green. In addition, Kyle served on Georgia Equality’s Board of Directors from 2004 to 2007, eventually serving as president his final year. As an attorney, Kyle has been recognized three times as a Georgia “Rising Star” in Litigation, Land Use and Zoning by Georgia “Super Lawyer” and Atlanta Magazine. Southern Voice named him one of the top 20 young gay leaders in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Kyle hopes to advance his ideas to modernize Decatur and bring innovation to the City Commission. He is a candidate with solid credentials and is devoted to LGBT equality. The Commission is currently one of the more effective local governing bodies and it would take a lot for a new member to be quickly productive and contribute. We believe Kyle has the credentials and the vision necessary to not only serve but be a stand out.

Kyle has also received the endorsement of Georgia Equality, Victory Fund, and Log Cabin Republicans.

At this time there are some contested races where we found incomplete or unverifiable information and our decision was to not make an endorsement. This should not be interpreted as a positive or negative reflection on the candidates and we will continue to monitor these contests and assess any need to revisit evaluations.

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