Liliana Bakhtiari is the first LGBTQ Muslim to be elected in Georgia.
Bakhtiari, who goes by “she” and “they”, was one of a handful of candidates that earned more than 66 percent of the vote, based on final election night data. With their election, Bakhtiari becomes the 13th non-binary elected official in the entire United States, and the first to serve the city of Atlanta.
Bakhtiari’s election comes as anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ political rhetoric rises in recent weeks, including state legislative attacks on trans candidates and anti-Muslim remarks targeting U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar.
“We have our work cut out for us, and I am honored to have the opportunity to address the pressing issues facing our city,” Bakhtiari said in a victory statement. “I am truly humbled by this immense honor, and hope to make Southeast Atlanta proud as our next Councilmember for Atlanta City Council District 5. Now let’s get to work!”
Victory Fund made Bakhtiari a Spotlight Candidate, raising more than $20,000 for their campaign and contributing $2,500 in the days before the runoff. It also provided campaign consulting support and visibility through its earned media and social media programs. Bakhtiari is also a former member of the Victory Campaign Board – which reviews and endorses candidates for Victory Fund.
Bakhtiari told LGBTQ Nation in an interview published in October, “I didn’t come out to myself until I was 23, but I knew I was different when I was in preschool. The idea of being able to be elected getting to be my whole self is never something I thought would be celebrated.”
“I was raised marching in the streets,” added Bakhtiari. “I was raised serving in homeless shelters and seeing extreme levels of poverty.”
Their father fled Iran for the United States after being involved in pro-Democracy activism in the Middle Eastern nation.
Bakhtiari’s background in community organizing and social justice work have taken them to 26 countries, where they have helped refugees, worked with sex-trafficking victims, orphans, and more. They have also worked on several community initiatives in Atlanta, including voter mobilization and charity donation drives.
Bakhtiari is part of a wave of “younger, more progressive” candidates elected in the major LGBTQ community hub, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, released the following statement about Bakhtiari’s victory:
“Liliana’s victory 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. When in office, Liliana will humanize our issues and be a voice for the underserved communities that are too often ignored by elected leaders. 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.”
Bakhtiari first ran for the District 5 council seat in 2017 – losing to the incumbent by just 2.6 percent of the vote.
More information about all of Victory Fund’s endorsed candidates is available at victoryfund.org/ourcandidates. Since 1991, Victory Fund has helped thousands of openly LGBTQ candidates win local, state and federal elections.