Franklin hopes rainbow leads to votes

Pitts' connections can't deliver gay endorsement

Shirley Clarke Franklin picked up another endorsement last week in her quest to become Atlanta's next mayor.

With the nod from Georgia Equality Inc., the state's pre-eminent political group for gays and lesbians, Franklin's campaign seems to be humming along. (Franklin already has been endorsed by the Atlanta Labor Council, which represents 90,000 people in the metro area.)

But as much as last week was a good one for Franklin, it was a setback for her opponent, Robb Pitts.

By all rights, it is Pitts who should be enjoying Georgia Equality's seal of approval. After all, he is the sitting president of an Atlanta City Council that approved a law that forbids Atlanta employers from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation. What's more, one of Pitts' high-profile volunteers is Kenneth F. Britt, a member of Georgia Equality's board of directors. Pitts supporters seemed confident their candidate would walk away with the nod from Georgia Equality.

Pitts "knows how important domestic partner benefits are to us," says Harry Knox, Georgia Equality's executive director, referring to a proposed law that would require contractors doing business with the city to offer the partners of gay employees the same benefits a married couple could expect. "It's equal pay for equal work."

But when Pitts met with a 14-person interview committee at Georgia Equality, "his answer was kind of equivocal," Knox says of Pitts' support of the proposed law.

"We would dispute that," says Dana Bolden, spokesman for the Pitts campaign.

Bolden says the campaign will continue to work with Georgia Equality members, and despite the endorsement, Pitts is confident "we are going to pull a majority of the votes from that group."

But Knox says Franklin's support of legislation for domestic partner benefits was unwavering.

She showed up with a briefing book full of position papers and an 11-point plan concerning a variety of gay issues, according to Georgia Equality and Franklin.

Pitts' failure to land Georgia Equality's endorsement could come back to haunt him on Election Day. Knox figures that gay voter turnout numbers around 9,000. He also says that in the metro districts that Georgia Equality tracks, 80 percent of the voters in those pick the candidates that have Georgia Equality backing. If that holds true, Franklin can count on 7,200 votes.

Franklin knows how important those numbers could be.

In 1997, Mayor Bill Campbell won the election by just 4,000 votes. Had he failed to win District 6 — centered mainly in Midtown, the epicenter of gay political strength in Atlanta — he would have lost, because his opponent captured the majority-white, upper-class neighborhoods of Buckhead by two votes to every one that Campbell received.??