Sandy Springs City Council elections are nonpartisan, but an endorsement in the District 4 race from a group of LGBT Democrats has both candidates declaring support of different parties – while both back legal protections for the city’s gay residents.
Candidate Le’Dor Milteer won an endorsement Oct. 11 from the Georgia Stonewall Democrats, a group representing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community interests that works to elect Democrats. It was the group’s only endorsement this year in any municipal race outside the city of Atlanta.
“I tend to support the Democratic Party on most issues,” Milteer said in an email. “I’m grateful for the support that I’ve received in this race from people and organizations across the political spectrum. City government should not be a partisan matter, but I’ve always been clear about my views on issues impacting our community and our nation.”
Jody Reichel, the other candidate for the District 4 seat, said she is not doing any partisan campaigning, but voiced a different political affiliation. “I am a moderate, common-sense Republican,” she said.
Partisan politics only occasionally comes up in city issues, but the majority of the City Council is known to be Republican, and Mayor Rusty Paul is a former chair of the state Republican Party. An exception is City Councilmember Andy Bauman, who publicly supported Democrat Jon Ossoff in this year’s U.S. Congressional District 6 race, eventually won by Republican Karen Handel.
LGBT civil rights were on the city’s agenda last year, when Bauman called for a tighter non-discrimination policy in the wake of state “religious freedom” legislation widely criticized as permitting bias against gay people. As a result, the city updated its anti-bias policy with language about sexual orientation and gender, and applied it to all aspects of city business for the first time.
“I have not heard any immediate concerns from Sandy Springs residents on discrimination issues impacting the LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning] community,” Milteer said when asked whether the city needs to do more to welcome or protect gay residents. “However, I am attuned to the discrimination that [members of] the LGBTQ community often face. I am absolutely against discrimination of any kind and I support equal rights, whether it be the LGBTQ community or any other community. The endorsement I’ve received is a reflection of my commitment to equality and my willingness to work to ensure that Sandy Springs will be welcoming and ensure a high quality of life for every citizen. “
In a press release, Milteer’s campaign noted the endorsement came just before the Atlanta Pride Festival and Parade, the annual celebration of the LGBT community.
On the same topic, Reichel cited last year’s anti-bias policy work.
“I absolutely support the Sandy Springs nondiscrimination policy adopted on June 7, 2016, that tightens protections for the LGBT community,” she said.
Georgia Stonewall Democrats’ website says it avoids endorsing in nonpartisan races where a candidate might not want a “partisan label.”
A press release about the endorsement, issued by Milteer’s campaign, including a lengthy quote personally praising the candidate, attributed to Stonewall Democrats board member Juliana Illari. However, the quote was fabricated, Illari later said, and the campaign retracted it, saying it was a “rookie staff error.”
The fabricated quote read: “Le’Dor’s commitment to LGBTQ equality is clear. She is running a diverse campaign that is leading the way on addressing issues facing all residents in Sandy Springs, and has a passion for serving her community. Le’Dor will be an ally to the LGBTQ community in Sandy Springs.”
Updated version: This story has been updated with information about the campaign’s retraction of a fabricated quote included in its endorsement press release.