Editor's note: Early voting began Monday for the July 31 General Primary that pairs Democrats Ken Britt and ‘Able’ Mable Thomas facing each other for the district 56 seat being vacated by Kathy Ashe. Because there is no Republican running, whoever wins the primary will win the seat. See here for a profile on Thomas.
Ken Britt, a Democratic candidate for House district 56, has a long history as a community and political leader, but he was also recently a volunteer lobbyist at the State Capitol.
“I thought it was a great opportunity,” Britt said. “I could see how the state legislature works up close in person.”
Britt said he was invited to lobby by a woman he sees as his mentor - former city council president Cathy Woolard
Woolard and Britt lobbied primarily for Georgia Equality, the state’s largest advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. If elected, Britt would be the first gay man to have come out before serving in the legislature.
Britt said that LGBT rights has been a top priority during his life as a political activist, but added that it would not dominate his legislative agenda if elected.
“The race that I'm running for is not a gay seat. It is a seat that represents all of the people of District 56. I am not running as a gay candidate, I am running as a candidate who happens to be gay,” he said.
In 2009, Britt retired as Executive Director from Alston & Bird LLP, an Atlanta based firm. Since then, he has lobbied for Georgia Equality, Planned Parenthood Southeast and the Planned Parenthood Fund of Georgia, according to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.
Britt educated legislators on the Georgia Fair Employment Practices Act, according to Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham.
Graham said that the bill was introduced that year and ensures that state employees cannot be discriminated against due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The bill was not adopted in 2011, but Georgia Equality is optimistic about its future prospects. “We feel that it will take a few legislative sessions to educate legislators about what the bill does and what it does not do,” Graham said. He also characterized Britt’s lobbying efforts as successful.
In the case of Planned Parenthood, Britt helped the organization monitor for bills they saw as a possible threat to women’s reproductive rights. “We were looking for anything that could be disguised and that would be against the mission of Planned Parenthood,” he said.
Britt’s campaign website outlines issues of importance to District 56, but makes no specific mention of LGBT rights or reproductive health care.
District 56 includes most of Midtown, as well as other neighborhoods like Ansley Park, Georgia Tech and Ashview Heights. The district’s current representative is Kathy Ashe, who announced her plans to retire in April. Ashe endorsed Britt in a press release on May 18.
“I wholeheartedly support Ken Britt as the next Representative of the 56th District,” she said in the release.