Sam Park's Election Shows Changing Demographics of Georgia
Voters in Georgia's House District 101 did something no other district in Georgia has ever done: They elected an openly gay man to the state legislature. Sam Park will serve portions of Gwinnett County, Georgia starting in January.
Project Q Atlanta reports that Park, a Korean-American Democrat, won his race against Republican incumbent Valerie Clark by just 445 votes, earning him 51.07 percent of the vote compared to clark's 48.93 percent. That equals 10,644 votes for Park.
Park's election is especially meaningful considering his opponent supported Georgia's "religious liberty" bill / HB757 which passed the legislature and was ultimately vetoed by Governor Nathan Deal, saving Georgia from much of the backlash North Carolina has faced.
In an email to supporters, Executive Director of Georgia Equality Jeff Graham, whose organization endorsed Park said, "The election of an openly gay man to the Georgia General Assembly represents just one more step on the road to full equality for LGBT people in Georgia. Sam Park will join a growing number of elected officials who will fight for the rights of LGBT people as we push for full state-wide nondiscrimination laws in the coming legislative session."
In an interview with the Georgia Voice last week, Park shared some of his personal story as he came to know himself: "I was born in Georgia, and raised Baptist, so I come from a very conservative background. Discovering and learning about yourself as a teenager, and as an adult, I discovered, yeah, I'm gay, and there's no real control over that. Discovering who I was in relation to my faith, yeah, there was a tremendous amount of conflict there."
Project Q notes that Park won his race despite a huge disparity in fundraising with his opponent. By the end of the race, she had nearly $60,000 on hand compared to his $7,000. Park's win speaks to the changing demographics of Gwinnett County. Just a few weeks ago it was announce that the white voters were no longer in the majority there.
"Not only is the election of Sam important for the LGBT and Asian-American communities, it is also an acknowledgement that Georgia voters are rejecting the politics of discrimination," Graham added.
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