Atlanta, according to one survey, is the third-gayest city in the nation. That may be why both candidates in the city’s mayoral runoff election are battling to win the LGBT vote.
“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. Eleven days after the November vote, Norwood — who would be the first white mayor of Atlanta since the 1970s — was outside the state Capitol for a rally protesting Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay-marriage measure. She told the crowd she had sent a donation to the forces fighting Prop. 8, and called herself “the only mayoral candidate who supports full marriage equality.” A rainbow flag icon is now featured prominently on Norwood’s campaign website; it links to a page reminding viewers that “each person in a couple” can contribute $1,200 to a candidate in the runoff.
Her rival, Reed — a favorite of Atlanta’s civil rights establishment who favors gay civil unions, not marriage — has touted his pro-gay-rights record in the Legislature, where he sponsored a hate crimes bill that extended protections to gays. Reed, in a recent televised debate, attacked Norwood for missing a City Council vote on a measure to extend pension benefits to domestic partners of city employees. “I think it’s great that they’re paying attention to our issues,” said Philip Rafshoon, founder and general manager of Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse, in the heart of the heavily gay Midtown neighborhood. “And I think this community will hold their feet to the fire on those issues.”
Gay turnout will likely be boosted by two openly gay candidates running for Atlanta’s city council and for the state legislature.