When I first walked into the downtown office of Timothy Swiney, he was wearing a fluorescent orange baseball cap with googly eyes and a fuzzy nose glued onto it.
“My kid made me this,” said Swiney with a laugh as he pulled off the hat and fixed his hair.
His kids were the reason why he in 2010 and, as he said, the reason why he’s now running for House of Representatives District 101—the seat currently held by after redistricting.
In 2010, Swiney was in the process of adopting two children. His daughter was diagnosed with Cerebal Palsy, so he decided to quit the Commissioners’ race to focus on his family. Since then, his two year old little girl has made great improvements. “She has surprised us a whole lot for a child that was never even supposed to live,” said Swiney.
Now Swiney is ready to run again. But this time as a Democrat.
“It’s going to surprise a lot of people,” said Swiney. “It took a lot of thought. Switching parties when everyone else is jumping ship to go to the Republican side. Everyone wants to be in the majority. I just felt in my heart, for my family, the Democratic Party is where I needed to be.”
He believes the Republican Party has lost their way when it comes to representing the people in the State of Georgia. “They’ve been in the majority. The Republicans have had the Governorship since 2002, and for the best part of a decade have controlled both houses,” said Swiney. “As a result, you see we have been named the , which is a dubious distinction.”
Swiney believes it is hypocritical that Georgia is ranked one of the top five places for businesses in the country, but is at the bottom of the list when it comes to financial security for its residents. He lists how Georgia has the eighth highest poverty rate, the and the out of all 50 states. “Clearly, Georgia is no longer a government by the people, but by the lobbyists, corporations, and special interest groups,” he stated in a release.
During our interview, the Democrat also opened up about his sexuality. Although he has been with his partner for 15 years, the couple rarely discusses their relationship in public. “I’m a very quiet, private person,” said Swiney. “I don’t feel that talking about my sexuality and my personal life in business is appropriate. I don’t think people want to hear it.” Swiney adds he never denied his relationship with Reid. “I just did not feel that it was something I needed to push on people.”
Swiney talked about some of the issues he and Reid faced during Reid’s run for City Council last fall, “there was a whole lot of nastiness going on,” according Swiney. He recounted hateful e-mails attacking him and Reid simply because of their sexual orientation.
“I am not a ‘gay’ candidate. I’m a candidate who happens to be gay,” said Swiney. “I don’t want to hear any moral judgments on me.”
Earlier this month, President Barack Obama said he personally supports gay marriage. “I think it’s a great step forward. And I think he’s come a long way,” said Swiney. “I’m very proud. I know a lot of people were-- minorities were proud when there was a Black President elected. And I feel very much just as proud as can be that that president turned out to be the one to actually stand up for my rights as well.”
When asked if gay marriage should be legal in Georgia, Swiney simply said “yes.” However in 2004, Georgia Constitutional Amendment I made it unconstitutional to perform a gay marriage ceremony or recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Swiney points out one single legislator is not going to be able to change that. “I think the opinion of this country is changing and I’m glad for my children that it may happen in their lifetime,” he said. However, Swiney reminds voters that if elected, he will represent the people of the district. “I will vote according to my conscience, but I will also vote according to the will of the people. If it comes down to that choice again, I will go out to the people, try to convince them, and if I can’t, I will do what they tell me to.”
First and foremost, Swiney says he identifies himself as a father and then a businessman. “If somebody looks at me as a candidate and says ‘well he’s gay, I’m not voting for him,’ now that’s pretty much disgraceful,” said Swiney.
“I have the exact same worries that you do,” he stated.
This election may be a challenge for Swiney. He is going up against an incumbent in a heavily Republican district. But it is a challenge he says he is well prepared for. “I think it’s going to be very close,” admits Swiney. “Gwinnett County is a lot more diverse than people are giving credit. I think it’s going to be a very close campaign, but I would not be in it if I didn’t think I could win it.”
Primary Day in Georgia will be Tuesday, July 31st. Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th.