Elections in Columbus Should Start to Include LGBT Issues at Forefront

In addition to national elections (both presidential and congressional), we have several elections in the Columbus area this year, starting with the following even-numbered city council seats up for election on May 24:

  • Skip Henderson in Post 10 (at-large seat)
  • District 2 Councilor Glenn Davis
  • District 4’s Evelyn Turner-Pugh
  • District 6’s Gary Allen
  • District 8’s Tom Buck, who is serving out the late Red McDaniel’s term and is not running for re-election

Incumbent Turner-Pugh is facing a challenge for the District 4 seat from Marquese “Skinny” Averett, while Henderson is facing a challenge for the Post 10 seat from lawyer Teddy Reese. Another newcomer, Walker Garrett, is running to replace Buck on the council.

Similarly, the Muscogee County School Board’s odd-numbered seats are also up for election:

  • Chairman Rob Varner of District 5
  • vice-chairwoman Pat Hugley Green of District 1
  • Athavia “A.J.” Senior of District 3
  • Shannon Smallman in District 7
  • And of course, all Assembly districts in Muscogee County:
  • Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-137)
  • Rep. Carolyn Hugley (D-136)
  • Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-135)
  • Rep. John Pezold (R-133)
  • Rep. Richard Smith (R-134)
  • Sen. Ed Harbison (D-15)
  • Sen. Josh McKoon (R-29)

I’ll let the Ledger-Enquirer explain most of the rest:

Others coming up for a vote are all Superior Court judges except Frank Jordan Jr., all state legislative delegates, State Court Judge Ben Richardson, Municipal Court Judge Steven Smith, Probate Judge Marc D’Antonio, District Attorney Julia Slater, Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce, Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop, Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman, Coroner Buddy Bryan and Tax Commissioner Lula Huff.

Not to mention:
  • Sheriff John Darr, who is facing a challenge from Robert Keith Smith and Pam Brown, but who will not seek the Democratic nomination and, theoretically, will make it easier for past primary challenger Brown
  • Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop, who is facing a challenge from former clerk’s office worker Sylvia Hudson
  • Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman, who is facing a challenge from CPD veteran Bernard Spicer
  • and Superior Court Judge for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit Ron Mullins, who is facing a challenge from Chief Deputy Assistant District Attorney Alonza Whitaker.

Finally, the “Thaw the Freeze” referendum will decide whether or not to thaw the property tax freeze that the county has had in place since 1982. This is a personal, pro-growth mission of Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, and she has participated in two debates opposite Republican partisans who oppose the thaw.

Now this leaves the question:

How will this election benefit the LGBT community in Columbus?

So far, we have had an LGBT-friendly mayor, Teresa Tomlinson, but we should be more responsible citizens in this election cycle. As the issue of discrimination in healthcare, employment, housing, education and public accommodations comes to the forefront across the country (and especially across the state), LGBT people in this county should be leading for LGBT rights advocacy and civil life from outside of Atlanta.

Also of note: since 2012, when Jeremy Hobbs made his second run for District 8 against McDaniel (with McDaniel coming out on top 58.14% to Hobbs’ 41.44%), no openly-LGBT or HIV-positive person has ran for the city council or for elected office in Muscogee County. If you are openly-LGBT, HIV-positive, or an ally to both, please consider running for office; you have from 9 a.m. March 7 until noon March 11 to do so.

In the meantime, I will send a questionnaire to many of the candidates, and will post their answers here. We need to know where our elected officials stand on LGBT and women’s rights in such a crucial election year.

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