A terrific piece in the Los Angeles Times about the mayoral race in Atlanta, which pits a white woman–Mary Norwood–against an African American man–Kasim Reed. While the run-off was expected to come down to a question of race and voter-turnout, the new dynamic is the gay vote.
The support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, community has been a coveted political prize for some time in Atlanta, a bastion of live-and-let-live progressivism in the heart of the more censorious Bible Belt.
But the wooing of LGBT voters here has become particularly intense since the Nov. 3 general election, when Councilwoman Mary Norwood and former state Sen. Kasim Reed earned spots in the mayoral runoff.
“I cannot recall a mayor’s race when there’s been so much attention placed on the gay and lesbian vote,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, the state’s largest gay rights group.
“All of a sudden, overnight, it’s like an unbelievable push [to prove] who’s gayer,” added Glen Paul Freedman, chief of staff for City Council President Lisa Borders.
The LA Times reports that gays–who may make up as much as 12 percent of the population in Atlanta–are politically powerful and can change elections in the city. So the candidates, who are both Democrats, are going after the gay vote.
Today, Graham said, Atlanta’s LGBT community is divided over the two choices for mayor.
He said Norwood may have an edge, given her full support of marriage rights. Even though Atlanta’s mayor can have little effect on the state’s ban on gay marriage — passed by 76% of voters in a 2004 referendum — many gays say that the mayor nonetheless has a powerful bully pulpit.
The mayor will have real effects on gay life here, including the selection of a new police chief (Chief Richard Pennington has announced he’ll retire). That decision has gained importance to gays in the wake of the controversial raid of a gay nightclub, the Atlanta Eagle, in September.
The story does a great job of giving the history of the gay vote in Atlanta and the importance gays now play in electing officials. While I’ve seen other outlets say the LGBT vote was important in the election, this is the first story that actually explains why.
But there is one curious question left unanswered: does the LGBT vote break down along race lines? What role does race play for LGBT voters?