Keisha Waites, Perseverance Prevail in Special Election
(APN) ATLANTA — Keisha Sean Waites, 39, who has sought public office and come quite close to winning several times, finally pulled off a victory on Tuesday, February 07, 2012. Waites, who has now sought office nine times, began running for office when she was twenty-seven years old.Waites won a Special Election for the House District 60 seat, which includes parts of Clayton, DeKalb, and Fulton counties, including parts of Atlanta City Council Districts 1 and 12, replacing former State Rep. Gloria Tinubu, who resigned.
Waites becomes the fourth openly homosexual member of the State Legislature, joining State Reps. Simone Bell, Karla Drenner, and Rashad Taylor. Although she does so no thanks to GLBT groups like Georgia Equality, who worked against her in a 2010 race and did nothing to support her in 2012; or to media outlets like GA Voice and Project Q Atlanta. Project Q ran an article titled “8-time loser Keisha Waites wants to lose again,” on January 11, 2012.
Atlanta Progressive News endorsed Waites in 2010 over Joan Garner for the Fulton County Board of Commissioners in the District 6 race because Waites was willing to support the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless and oppose the privatization of Grady Hospital, while Garner said she did not know enough about those issues to take a position.
On Wednesday, Georgia Equality issued a terse statement congratulating Waites.
“There will now be four openly gay Representatives serving in the Georgia legislature,” Melinda Sheldon, Deputy Director, wrote in an email.
“With 99 percent of percents reporting, unofficial election results from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office showed Waites with 54.2 percent of the vote, or 321 votes, compared to 18.6 percent (110 votes) for Theresa Middlebrooks and 27.2 percent (161 votes) for Latrenka Riley,” Sheldon wrote.
“Less than 600 people voted in this election – a reminder that every vote counts, and a handful of people can affect the outcome. Turnout is typically very low in special elections, primaries, and runoffs, which is why it’s so important for LGBT voters and our allies get out there and let our voices be heard at the the ballot box. Thank you to everyone who went out to the polls to vote in this special election!” Sheldon wrote.
“Waites will have to run again to keep this seat only months from now in the regular primary and general election for the state legislature,” she wrote.
“My goal right now is to listen to Georgians’ needs and concerns,” Waites told Atlanta Progressive News. “My belief is there is a portion of the electorate that’s feeling alienated and underserved.”
“I do feel a special kinship to children, senior citizens, and working families,” Waites said. “People talk a lot about being a people’s candidate. It says something very special when you give out your… cell phone number.”
“I want to be completely accessible, I want to set a bar I think will make the community proud.
I want them to engage me, I want them to call me with respect to all of this whether city, county, or state. I want to help people navigate the process,” Waites said.
“I’m just really excited. The response was extremely positive,” Waites said.
“Election day morning, I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. I know I had asked God for victory. When I got home that night, I could feel it, I knew we were gonna win. I didn’t want to look at the numbers until we won,” Waites said.
“When I heard them start screaming downstairs, my hands started shaking so bad… it was so unreal. It still hasn’t settled in that it’s real, I still feel like I should be putting up a yard sign,” Waites said.
“I’ve campaigned for so damn long, but now it’s time to implement a legislative agenda,” Waites said.
“I think I am living proof that perseverance and determination will eventually pay off. For many years my friends and my family thought I was crazy for continuing this process. And so think I am living proof to anyone that has engaged the political process and been unsuccessful, there is a door, and you must keep knocking,” Waites said.
When Waites announced she was running in the Special Election, establishment politicos like Councilmembers Joyce Sheperd and Carla Smith, and Commissioner Joan Garner, had backed one of the other candidates, Ms. Middlebrooks.
Therefore, Waites’s victory is another defeat of the political machine, similar to Board of Education Member Byron Amos’s recent defeat of Angela Brown, who had been backed by former Board Chair Khaatim El, State Sen. Vincent Fort, and Rep. Taylor.
Dwanda Farmer, who has previously run for office four times, and who backed both Amos and Waites in the recent elections, said she was inspired by Waites’s victory.
“I might just run again now,” Farmer said.