According to the LGBTQ Victory Institute’s Out for America Report 2021, LGBTQ elected officials increased by 17 percent, with 986 currently serving. White LGBTQ elected officials grew dramatically slower than all other racial and ethnic groups, with Black LGBTQ elected officials growing at the fastest pace. The Atlanta 2021 General Election on November 2, 2021, will feature several openly LGBTQ candidates seeking the offices of Mayor, AT-Large, and Councilman. They include: Antonio Brown, Larry Carter, Jason Hudgins, Brandon Cory Goldberg, Liliana Bakhtiari, Jereme Sharpe, Kelly-Jeanne Lee, Devin Barrington-Ward, Keisha Waites, Alex Wan, Courtney DeDi, Khalid Kamau and Mike Russell. In this first part of our two-part series of we present interviews of five candidates. PrideIndex does not endorse candidates for election.
Antonio Brown is a member of the city council representing the District 3. In 2019, he pulled off a surprise victory when he narrowly defeated former Atlanta Public Schools board member Byron Amos with just 82 votes. At that time, Brown became the city’s first black openly LGBTQ councilman. Now he’s vying for the city’s top office; should he win, he will become the youngest and first-ever LGBTQ leader.
Challengers: Brandon Adkins, Alex Barrella, Raina Bell-Saunders, Andre Dickens, Rachele Fruit, Sharon A. Gay, Amanda McGee, Felicia Moore, Kasim Reed former Mayor of Atlanta (2010–2018), Walter Reeves and Richard Wright.
What he shared with us:
PrideIndex (PI): Why did you decide to run for mayor of Atlanta?
Antonio Brown (AB): We are witnessing a crime wave of historic proportions in our city, perpetuated by years of growth, development and gentrification that left many of Atlanta’s communities in the dust, reach a crescendo due to a lack of action from City Hall to address the core issues from which the crime stims: generational poverty and a lack of innovative alternatives in the field of public safety that has marginalized and relentlessly attacked our working class and minority communities.
I am running for Mayor because a continuation of the status quo is unacceptable and dangerous to the long-term health of Atlanta, and I am the only candidate, running who understands that we need innovative voices from within the community at the table, because the community owns that table, and our city’s leaders have lost sight of that fact.
PI: What makes you qualified to hold this office?
AB: My life experience is what makes me qualified. I grew up with parents in and out of prison. I had to raise my siblings, including feeding, protecting and providing for my baby sister who was born in prison, since the age of 13, which caused me to drop out of high school in order to bag groceries.
I have not had what some would call a traditional or formal education, and yet I rose to become a successful businessman, start a non-profit feeding homeless students, and won my seat as city councilman, during which time I passed 60+ resolutions and legislation, almost all of which passed unanimously.
It’s time Atlantans had someone who understands their concerns because they have lived that experience firsthand, in office. I am that someone.
PI: What is your vision for the citizens of Atlanta?
AB: Imagine a city where affordable housing is more abundant, and you don’t have to fear the possibility of being forcibly removed from your home due to rapid gentrification.
Imagine a city where crime is down not because we flooded Black and brown neighborhoods with police officers, but because we took an innovative approach to public safety that keeps the real criminals off our streets and helps those kids and others who got caught up in a bad situation or circumstance rehabilitate and re-enter society through alternative programs.
Imagine an Atlanta where everyone can participate in the economic growth and opportunity that is bound to happen once we recover from this pandemic, and the communities that were instrumental in building this city’s soul and prestige are able to reap what their ancestors have sown.
We can have all of that and more, if we have leadership that comes to the table ready to find these solutions with the community instead of relying on status quo tactics that only fix the appearance of our city, instead of fighting the rot that has plagued us for generations.
PI: How do you plan to address the issues of the disenfranchised?
AB: Part of the old status quo tactics that have kept people in Atlanta disenfranchised was the ability for City Hall and other government entities to shut the people out of the process, allowing for little to no transparency on the decisions that affected their lives.
Not only would my administration bring innovative ideas to bear against the city’s current and future problems, we would join every community at their table and work with them to bring the change they believe is necessary to save our city from future turmoil and hardship.
PI: What similarities and differences do you see between yourself and your opponent(s)?
AB: Simply put, the one similarity that every person running for the office of Mayor has is our love for this city, and our deep desire to relieve our constituents of the issues that have been bothering them, especially recently with the crime wave and pandemic response.
The core difference, though, is that many of my colleagues running in this race preach about how their platform will be the one to fix things, yet the platforms are routed in the same status quo tactics we have used for years to no lasting success, or their ideas don’t go far enough to touch the root causes of our current dilemma, let alone attack them. My policies do, and they are rooted in data and analysis backed by experts in the fields of the social sciences. These aren’t just progressive pipe dreams. They are real, tangible strategies to creating a healthy ecosystem in Atlanta.
PI: What should the city of Atlanta do to address the issues of the homeless and underserved?
AB: The city must stop criminalizing homelessness, which is a symptom of the disease of generational poverty that is plaguing Atlanta right now. This isn’t a crisis of homelessness, it’s a crisis of compassion. We have to invest in innovative affordable housing approaches instead of waging a war on the homeless for simply existing.
For example, my administration would establish the Department of Housing and Community Development and re-establish the position of Chief Housing Officer as a full-time budgeted position. We would also work to create the “Beloved Village” tiny homes development that would offer housing, job training and placement, medical services, counseling, and other services to the unsheltered population.
PI: Should you win, what do you plan to do to address the needs of your detractors?
AB: At the end of the day, even if my detractors and I share different visions for the ideal Atlanta and the ideal Mayor for our city, the one thing we have in common is we all care deeply about Atlanta’s future and the future of the families and individuals who call this home.
There will be no grudge holding, and as long as they are open and willing to join the communities who voted for me at their table in a collaborative spirit, I will be more than happy to join them, and we can have a deeper dialogue about how to make everyone’s visions align together.
PI: What is your position regarding funding for affordable housing and/or the sky-rocketing costs of living in Atlanta?
AB: We absolutely have to increase funding for affordable housing to ensure we have enough quality housing for those citizens in Atlanta who need it most: the firefighters, the teachers, the blue collar workers that keep Atlanta’s heart beating day in and day out.
Part of the reason my administration would establish the Department of Housing and Community Development is that we also need more oversight and accountability in our affordable housing and supportive housing development programs, to ensure that developers and other entities are keeping affordable housing prices affordable and that they are meeting the necessary requirements for receiving grants and funds dispersed from the city based in affordable housing quotas. Through this new department, we can even make changes and updates to existing affordable housing programs as is necessary.
To see the out LGBTQ candidates running for office in the November 2, 2021 election in the Atlanta area click on the names below. Check back for updates.
Antonio Brown, Larry Carter, Jason Hudgins, Brandon Cory Goldberg, Liliana Bakhtiari, Jereme Sharpe, Kelly-Jeanne Lee, Devin Barrington-Ward, Keisha Waites, Courtney DeDi, Alex Wan, Khalid Kamau and Mike Russell.