Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Sovo Highlights Allen Thornell

Sovo's Zack Hudson has a very nice piece on Allen Thornell who is involved in a runoff with Robin Shipp in the state house district 58 race. One of the reasons why I hope Allen wins is because he isn't "just the gay candidate." He seems to have a lot to offer in a lot of areas.........

Thornell aims to be more than ‘the gay candidate’ Lobbyist in runoff for state House seat

By ZACK HUDSON Friday, July 28, 2006

A strategy to take second place and secure a runoff election berth out of a crowded candidate field apparently worked for Allen Thornell’s campaign.
Thornell, who is gay and formerly served as executive director of Georgia Equality, is seeking the District 58 seat in the state House of Representatives. He faces an Aug. 8 runoff with Robbin Shipp, associate general counsel for Grady Health System.

In a field of four candidates, Shipp took the most votes in the July 18 Democratic primary with 1,657 votes (40.1 percent) while Thornell garnered 1,097 total votes (27 percent), according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Shipp did not return repeated calls for comment for this story.

Thornell leads Shipp in campaign contributions leading up to the runoff. According to the latest financial disclosure information available from the State Ethics Commission, Shipp had $10,394 on hand while Thornell still had $35,790 in his war chest.

Thornell’s campaign has at least two more fundraisers planned before the runoff election, including the second round of a popular karaoke party at Mary’s, a gay bar in East Atlanta Village.

With no Republicans running, the outcome of the Democratic runoff will determine who holds the seat. If elected, Thornell would be the first openly gay man and first openly HIV-positive person to serve in the General Assembly.

‘You have to define yourself’

Thornell, now a union lobbyist, served as executive director of Georgia Equality from 2002 until 2004. Since moving to Atlanta in 1995, he has defined himself as an ambitious political insider with a particular gift for drumming up support and allies.

“At the very least it was seen as extremely difficult,” Thornell, 35, said of the idea that a gay person could win political office in Georgia just a decade ago. “Probably the biggest change is that more and more people have come out.”

Thornell acknowledges that his election would make history for Georgia, but says sexual orientation is not the focus of his race.

He gives a nod to lesbian political trailblazers like state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), who is Georgia’s first openly gay state legislator and was reelected to her post July 18, and former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard, the state’s first openly gay elected official. But he said the only shoes he’ll have to fill are his own.

“You have to define yourself, because if you don’t, people will just define you as the gay candidate,” he said.

“I think that if anything, it’s basically, whenever you’re going to be the first at something — to me at least — there’s extra pressure to do it right,” he said.

If Thornell is elected and a gay rights issue comes up in the General Assembly, he said he will “play a large role in that.” But he said that his priorities mirror those of his potential constituents, gay and straight, such as health care, public education, and revitalizing the flagging Georgia job market. Thornell currently works as the deputy regional political director of the Service Employees International Union.

Thornell and his partner, Gary Haynes, have been together for over two years.
“With a partner who is political, all of a sudden you become the wife. I’m definitely my own person. I’m very independent,” Haynes said.

While endorsed by gay groups such as the National Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Georgia Equality and the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats, Thornell also appealed to other groups.
Kay Scott, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Georgia, said her organization supports Thornell because he is the “candidate for choice.”

“We felt like he had a great vision for moving Georgia forward and to the center,” she said.
Shipp was endorsed by Rev. Timothy McDonald, pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church, who was a plaintiff in the unsuccessful lawsuit to repeal the state’s same-sex constitutional marriage ban.


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