Thomas, Gardner, Bell, Waites Prevail; T-SPLOST Defeated
(APN) ATLANTA — During the July 31, 2012, Partisan Primary and Non-partisan General Election, progressive candidates for State House races in the Atlanta area–including former State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta), and State Reps. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta), Simone Bell (D-Atlanta), and Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta)–fared well, while the T-SPLOST was defeated for the Metro Atlanta region.
It was an unusually strong showing for an Atlanta Progressive News slate of endorsed candidates. APN endorsed Thomas, Gardner, Bell, and Waites, and opposed the T-SPLOST.
Only one APN endorsee, Robert Patillo, who challenged State Rep. Sheila Jones (D-Atlanta), did not prevail, coming in third, while Jones won the Democratic nomination.
The ten-county Metro Atlanta region defeated the T-SPLOST, one penny sales tax for transportation, by a margin of nearly two-to-one. It was a big defeat for Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta, who became one of the most outspoken advocates of the T-SPLOST during the campaign’s final days.
It also demonstrated that the ten million dollar corporate-funded campaign in favor of the T-SPLOST could not convince voters to support something that the voters clearly did not believe was in their best interests. Among the many corporate donors to the pro-T-SPLOST campaign was Cox Enterprises, Inc., which owns the Atlanta-Journal Constitution newspaper, WSB-TV, and WSB radio; Cox gave 250,000 dollars to Citizens for Transportation Mobility, Inc.
A diverse groups of individuals and organizations opposed the T-SPLOST, including APN, the Green Party of Georgia, the Atlanta Public Sector Alliance, State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), radio personality Derrick Boazman, Phil Kent of the Georgia Gang, the Sierra Club of Georgia, the Tea Party Patriots of Georgia, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People DeKalb County chapter, the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation, as well as new grassroots organizations like the Transportation Leadership Coalition.
T-SPLOST did pass in three of Georgia’s regions outside of Metro Atlanta, including the Central Savannah River area, which includes Augusta; Heart of Georgia Altahama, which is in South Central and Southeast Georgia; and River Valley, which includes Columbus.
“ABLE” MABLE DEFEATS KEN BRITT
In House District 56, former State Rep. Thomas defeated Ken Britt, 64.72 percent to 35.28 percent, to win the seat formerly held by State Rep. Kathy Ashe (D-Atlanta).
Thomas is a progressive community leader and activist who has previously served as City Councilmember and as State Legislator. Thomas gave up a House seat in 2008 to challenge US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) in the Democratic Primary, but lost. She tried to regain that seat in 2010, which by then was held by State Rep. Rashad Taylor (D-Atlanta), but Taylor won.
Britt was the darling of the GLBTQI media establishment and is believed to have raised as much as 150,000 dollars for the race, outspending Thomas by at least five to one.
Thomas’s win also signalled a defeat for the Alex Wan political machine, which after getting Wan elected to the City Council of Atlanta in 2009, the same group of people worked to get Joan Garner elected to the Fulton County Commission in 2010. Britt had worked on both the Wan and the Garner campaigns.
“I am very happy and just grateful that the people of the 56th district sent me to the State House once again,” Thomas said. “The power of the people still lives.”
“I was concerned about turnout but it seems as if people going to the polls for or against the T-SPLOST pushed people out to the polls with passion and commitment and I think it helped us,” Thomas said.
“It really came down to grassroots campaigning, doing the stuff people are always talking about, going door to door, waving signs, getting up early in morning, going to churches on Sunday and trying to get pastors to recognize you, going to community events and trying to talk to people. Everything that gives you the opportunity for voter contact,” Thomas said.
“Our District 56 was not for sale,” Thomas said.
Britt had sent out numerous mailers, including one mailer attacking Thomas for running for office numerous times. It had a picture of a back of a car with numerous “Able” Mable bumper stickers on it for all the different times she had run. It attacked her because it said she loved to run for office.
“Since I don’t have a lot of money for mailings, it inadvertently helped my campaign. It helped people know I was in a race with him. One of the pieces had my name on it twenty-two times and we thought that was a great mailing they did for us even though it was against us,” Thomas said.
“We were surprised he would do that, we thought he would run on his record but apparently he has no record so he resorted to negative campaigning,” Thomas said.
Britt told supporters in a concession speech, “I’m proud to be the Gay Godfather,” and vowed to stay active in the community, according to the Georgia Voice magazine.
GARDNER DEFEATS RASHAD TAYLOR
State Rep. Gardner defeated State Rep. Taylor, after both were redrawn into the same district, District 57, 62.77 percent to 37.23 percent.
APN has reported over the last couple months on various issues involving Taylor, including questions about his residency; his tax liens; and his missing, late, or incomplete campaign disclosures. At one point, Taylor accused APN of participating in a conspiracy to produce homophobic flyers against him.
Gardner’s victory was in part significant as she had been redrawn from a District that was five percent Black to one that was 58 percent Black.
Gardner received key support, however, from Mitzi Bickers, a Black political operative who had helped Mayor Kasim Reed get elected in 2009. Bickers took a leave from the City of Atlanta to work on the Gardner campaign in part because Reed wanted Taylor to be defeated. Reed is displeased with Taylor due to his role in orchestrating the takeover of the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education by the Gang of Five in 2010.
Taylor’s defeat signals another loss for the State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) political machine. Taylor was Fort’s mentee. First, Khaatim El resigned as APS BOE Chair, then Angela Brown was defeated by Byron Amos in the Special Election for El’s seat, and now Taylor was defeated.
“I’m obviously extraordinarily pleased to have won in precincts all over the 57th District,” Gardner told APN.
“I talked a lot about the dream of creating a multicultural and multiracial environment, and people scoffed. But I think we have a clear demonstration that the City of Atlanta is ready to win a gold medal in moving towards a society where people are not judged by the color of their skin. I think it matters we went to all the neighborhood meetings and listened to what folks had to say,” Gardner said.
“I’m proud. I am proud Black people were willing vote for a White woman, and White people have been willing to vote for John Lewis. That’s who I am, that’s what people are asking for,” Gardner said.
“I never did resort to desperate tactics – I didn’t feel it was worth it to me – I decided to work hard rather than attack an opponent,” Gardner said.
Gardner had a nice phone conversation with Taylor. “I hope he gets his life together – he’s very smart and talented. I wish him success somewhere else.”
SIMONE BELL DEFEATS RALPH LONG
State Rep. Bell defeated State Rep. Ralph Long (D-Atlanta), 58.84 percent to 41.14 percent.
KEISHA WAITES WINS REELECTION
State Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), who won a Special Election for the HD60 seat earlier this year, after years of numerous unsuccessful campaigns, won reelection without a runoff. She defeated opponents Will Fisher, Antonio Lewis, and Latrenka Riley.
“I am just humbled with the results from yesterday’s election. I think the voters of District 60 spoke loudly. I appreciate the opportunity to go back and finish the work that I started,” Waites said.
Waites said she continued to be attacked by the establishment in this race, saying she never stopped campaigning since she won the Special Election.
“We never stopped. We knew that pretty much the same individuals who worked against our efforts were going to continue,” Waites said.
“When your agenda is the disenfranchised and the least of these, you’re always going to get opposition from the establishment. I accept that charge,” Waites said.
Waites said she was happy with the endorsement and the support she received from Georgia Equality.
However, she was less happy with the labor unions–who she claims funded a mailer against her on behalf of Riley–and with the Georgia WIN List, which did not endorse her.
Waites said that Atlanta Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd (District 12) assisted Riley as well.
A copy of the attack mailer obtained by APN describes her as an out lesbian, something that she believes was a subtle attempt at gay-baiting in a heavily Black district. However, Waites said she was proud of her constituents for not taking the bait.
In other key races, US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) defeated Michael Johnson in the Democratic Primary for the 5th District seat.
State Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) defeated two opponents, Detrius Hill Jones and Cory Lynch, for the Democratic nomination for SD 35.
State Sen. Horacena Tate (D-Atlanta) defeated Reginald Crossley for the Democratic nomination for SD 38.
State Rep. Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta) defeated William Phelps for the Democratic nomination for HD 59.
In District 62, Marvin Arrington, Jr., and Ladawn Blankett Jones will go into a Run-off Election for the Democratic nomination. Kip Carr and Benny Crane did not make it into the Run-off.
In District 63, Ronnie Mabra and TJ Copeland will go into a Run-off Election for the Democratic nomination. Linda Pritchett did not make it into the Run-off.
State Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague (D-Atlanta) defeated Charles McGillis for the Democratic nomination in HD 65.
Cathelene “Tina’ Robinson beat back three challengers for the Democratic nomination for Clerk of Fulton County Superior Court.
The Fulton County Sheriff’s race is still too close to call, with two precincts in Fulton County not yet reporting. The incumbent, Ted Jackson, is currently at 50.01 percent. If he drops below 50, he’ll be in a Run-off with Richard Lankford for the Democratic nomination.
Fulton Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand beat back two challengers for the Democratic nomination.
Carmen Smith, the Fulton County Solicitor General, defeated Teri Walker, who was challenging her for the Democratic nomination.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Todd Markle defeated challenger Clarence Johnson in the Non-partisan General Election.
Jane Morrison defeated Melynee Leftridge for an open Fulton County State Court Judge seat.
Fulton County approved Sunday alcohol sales in unincorporated Fulton County.
And residents of the newly proposed City of Brookhaven decided to incorporate, thus creating a new city out of unincorporated DeKalb County. Brookhaven will be the seventh new city in Metro Atlanta within the last eight years: Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton, and Chattahoochee Hills in Fulton; Dunwoody and Brookhaven in DeKalb; and Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County.