A Democratic candidate for a metro Atlanta state Senate seat last week deleted years-old comments made on social media after being accused of being anti-gay and misogynistic.
Jaha Howard, a dentist who last year was the only Democrat to run against state Sen. Hunter Hill and came within 4 percentage points of the incumbent, said he was embarrassed and disappointed by comments he posted on Facebook between 2011 and 2014.
This year Howard is facing seven other candidates for the 6th District Senate seat, two of whom also are Democrats. Hill gave up his seat in September to run for governor.
“Unintentionally, I greatly offended many of the same people I’m working to represent and defend in the state Senate,” Howard told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m deeply sorry. Those words are not an accurate representation of how I see the world. As a person of faith, I believe we must affirm and defend the equal value and dignity of every person.”
Many of Howard’s posts called being gay a sin, questioned whether public education had a “homosexual agenda,” and said that children should be free to express their opposition to gays without being accused of bullying.
Howard also wrote online that it is against the Bible for women to lead church congregations, and he expressed strong opposition to abortion.
Liberal groups responded strongly to the revelation of Howard’s Facebook posts, publicized in the Georgia Voice last week.
Michael Owens, the chairman of the Cobb County Democratic Party, said in an email to the AJC that it’s clear Howard is a person led by his Christian faith.
“While that may be admirable, it has clearly put him at odds with some of the core values of the Democratic platform and our party,” Owens said.
Howard said were he elected his duty would be to his constituents and the U.S. Constitution — not his church.
“And while varying interpretations of the Bible can lead to spirited debate, I recognize that discussions of personal faith should be kept separate from the public sphere,” he said.
On Tuesday, Howard said he will fight for gender equality, make sure women can make choices about their reproductive health, and will protect equal rights for the LGBTQ community,
“Ultimately, our diversity makes us stronger, and our campaign will continue to bring together folks from all walks of life to work for the good of everyone in this district and across our great state,” he said.
But Laura Simmons, the Georgia state director of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, said Howard’s apology is not enough.
“Georgia families deserve someone who has been a consistent fighter for their rights and freedoms,” Simmons said. “This disregard for the lives of other Georgians has no place in our politics and no place in the Democratic Party.”