Waites Runs in HD 60 Special Election
Georgia House candidate Keisha Waites is certainly on a mission.
In her ninth bid for political office; Waites, a lesbian, hopes to succeed former state Rep. Gloria Tinubu who resigned in December to run for Congress in South Carolina. She will face Theresa Middlebrooks and Latrenka Riley in a special election in House District 60 on Feb. 7.
"This seat has very large shoes to fill," she told EDGE. "I further believe that there is a large portion of the electorate that feels ignored and disconnected from their government. This is reflected in the voter turnout in my community. Voters have lost confidence in the process. I share their concerns."
HD 60 includes portions of Fulton, Clayton and DeKalb Counties. Waites said a candidate who understands each level of government and knows how to get things done should fill the seat.
"This isn’t about committees and agencies; this is about service and doing what it takes to make life better," noted Waites. "We need three things: jobs, jobs, jobs and I know how to create those."
Hoping to help turn things around for her community and to be an accessible politician, Waites has been telephoning HD 60 voters and canvassing neighborhoods not only to ask for their support but to discuss her agenda. She is certainly no stranger to running for various offices, but Waites believes she has not always received fair coverage in local and even LGBT media outlets.
"All I want is a fair shake," said Waites. "It’s a fact that I have run for multiple offices, however, one of the things that has never been mentioned in any of the articles by GLBT media is the vast credentials that I bring to the seat, in addition to the fact that I have worked for the community’s interest. Neither my professional qualifications nor my work in the GLBT community have ever been highlighted. I offer a broad, diverse record of civic involvement, strong business acumen, and fresh ideas to this position."
Things have certainly changed in the district since Waites first ran for office in 2001.
"Over the 10 years since, we’ve gone from a boom to a bust economically and our communities are suffering," she said. "We’ve lost more jobs and have more foreclosures than just about any district in Georgia. That has to change, and I understand all levels of government and will work to make it happen."
In a state with high unemployment rates and foreclosures marring neighborhoods, Waites said that she would like to work with state Rep. Kathy Ashe (D-Atlanta) on existing legislation that seeks to prevent abusive sale of tax liens, which has caused many working families to lose their homes.
Waites also pointed to her years of experience and knowledge of the legislative process at the local, state, and federal levels of government.
She is currently a Congressional Governmental Affairs Officer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Waites previously worked in eight Southeastern states on behalf of FEMA-and she now covers the entire continental United States. She has supported members of Congress in their response to Hurricanes Irene, Ike and Katrina, the BP oil spill and the Haiti earthquake in 2010.
"I have a proven background in solving problems," she said, further challenging local LGBT media to judge her on her abilities, talents, vision and skills. "I actually have a plan that focuses on job creation, GLBT rights, education, and sustainability/viability of our neighborhoods."
This time around, Waites feels it’s her time.
She nearly won a seat on the Fulton County Commission last year, receiving more votes than fellow lesbian Joan Garner in the Democratic primary. Waites lost in the runoff, and Garner became the first openly gay person to serve on the commission.
Waites said she would seek to build consensus with other legislators if she is elected.
"With Republicans being in the majority it is imperative that we work with them. It is quite possible that in the next legislative session they may have a super majority," she said. "Therefore, walking across the aisle will be essential to getting anything done, especially in regards to issues affecting the LGBTQ community."
Waites also has plans to lend her support to lesbian state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), who introduced a bill last year that would bar discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. She said she would co-sponsor House Bill 630 if elected.
"It’s a no-brainer," said Waites. "Certainly, I am going to support and actively work for the passage of legislation that is in my own interest and for the good of the community at large."
With the election only a few days away, Waites remains hopeful.
"The campaign has progressed beautifully from the little engine that could to a great team," she stated. "God has blessed us tremendously. Victory belongs to him."