Atlanta voters made history on Tuesday, selecting Liliana Bakhtiari, an out nonbinary Muslim candidate, in the runoff election for the District 5 seat on the Atlanta City Council.
Bakhtiari, a second-time candidate who fell short by less than 3 percentage points in 2017, was the first candidate past the post in the general election on Nov. 2, but only managed to receive 49.5% of the vote in a five-way race, leaving them short of the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff. On Tuesday, they won in a landslide, winning more than two-thirds of all ballots cast in the race.
Currently, there are only 12 nonbinary people in elective office in the United States, most of whom have been elected to local city, town, or county councils and commissions.
In addition to becoming the Atlanta City Council’s first nonbinary member, Bakhtiari will also become Georgia’s first-ever out LGBTQ Muslim officeholder — a significant milestone at a time when anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ political rhetoric is on the rise.
Bakhtiari was supported and endorsed by LGBTQ Victory Fund, a national organization seeking to increase LGBTQ representation in elective office. Victory Fund designated Bakhtiari one of the organization’s “Spotlight Candidates,” raising more than $20,000 for Bakhtiari’s campaign and contributing $2,500 in the days leading up to the runoff election.
“Liliana’s is a milestone moment for Georgia, but also for non-binary people and LGBTQ Muslims across the country who want to make positive change through public service,” Annise Parker, the president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement.
“When in office, Liliana will humanize our issues and be a voice for the underserved communities that are too often ignored by elected leaders,” added Parker. “Atlanta is already a beacon of hope for LGBTQ people throughout the South, but with more representation that reflects the entire LGBTQ community, it can become a model for the entire nation.”
In addition to Bakhtiari, two other LGBTQ candidates will serve on the Atlanta City Council, marking a high-water mark for LGBTQ representation.
Alex Wan won the election for the District 6 seat on Nov. 2, and Keisha Sean Waites won a runoff election for the At-Large Post 3 council seat on Tuesday.
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