Can A Gay Man Win Re-Election To Georgia's Most Conservative City? (06.01.11)
An Alan Tart victory in November could signify a major cultural shift among affluent and educated Republicans towards the gay community nationally.
Alan Tart is a successful professional employee with the federal government, holds elected office, has a beautiful young daughter -- and lives with a male partner named David.
Tart [pictured below] lives in the new North Fulton city of Milton, one the most affluent, highly educated and Republican leaning enclaves in the U.S.
When Tart first won election to the City Council of Milton in 2007 -- by unseating incumbent Rick Mohrig with 55 percent of the vote -- it was not particularly newsworthy.
While some citizens of Milton may have known that Tart is homosexual -- it was not widely publicized in that election -- it was also the best kept secret throughout Metro Atlanta, one of the nation's gay meccas.
Tart did not seek the endorsement of Georgia Equality, an organization which supports candidates who favor equality for all members of the GLBT community.
Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Georgia Equality, told the Beacon Broadcast Network that he had not heard of Tart until recently when this reporter told another individual -- who in turn told Graham.
Graham said he could not comment on the politics of Milton, but that he considered Tart's 2007 election a victory for Georgia.
Nor did Tart seek the endorsement of the Victory Fund, a group that supports GLBT candidates and which may have sent money to support him in a tight election race.
Further, Tart apparently did not contact Atlanta's GLBT media, where he may have gotten his photo plastered on glossy covers throughout gay bars and Midtown
Tart, did, however post the following statement on his campaign website, dated 10.05.07: "Dear Citizens of Milton: Despite the lies and mischaracterizations that are being used by my opponent and his group of supporters to attempt to derail my campaign... I would like to set the record straight...My orientation has nothing to do with my ability to serve your interests on city council. I have been completely open and honest with the citizens of Milton from the very beginning."
Indeed, Tart focused on neighbhood quality issues in his campaign literature: standing up to developers; fighting more sewers which would lead to more density,
harming the rural character of Milton; a stronger tree ordinance; low taxes; and high-quality service delivery including public safety.
But when asked to comment on his re-election campaign or what it says about the tolerance of the people of Milton, Tart did not return multiple phone and E-mail messages.
TART PLAYING "HARD TO GET?"
He's also has been playing hard-to-get with an online Atlanta-based GLBT publication for several weeks. So what gives?
Tart is not talking, so it is impossible to know for sure.
But this may be the same electoral dilemma for Tart, as it for many gay politicians representing suburban communities: if they talk about it openly, are they "flaunting" their sexual orientation? It's a fine line and with a delicate political balance.
Nonetheless, Tart's re-election in Milton could very well signal a cultural shift, as if being homophobic or heterosexist is totally going out of style -- even for Republicans. To be sure, the Republican nominee for Fulton County Commission Chairman, Steve Broadbent of Johns Creek, was at Atlanta Gay Pride handing out campaign literature last year. But no one can win countywide in Fulton without Midtown support; the same cannot be said for Milton.
There are also implications for Georgia's Republican Party in that voters, at least at the local level, are more concerned about their tax dollars and their quality of life, than about what other people are doing in the privacy of their bedroom.
The city's website says, "Tart, his partner David, and his daughter Madison, age 10, have been residents of the Northwest Fulton area since 2005."
Tart is being challenged by local engineer Lance Large in the municipal election, which is non-partisan. The race, one of thousands of city wide off year elections across the state come November, could take on national significance, trumping the communities' local issues.