"ON A SCALE from one to ten, just how gay are you?"
“I’m off the scale,” laughs Kevin Clark. “I’m an 11, 12, or 13 on a scale of gayness.”
His laugh is a low and confident laugh with passion, direction, and determination—a politician’s laugh. Clark is currently running for Georgia State Senate District 2, the seat Regina Thomas gave up to run against John Barrow for Congress.
Clark sits at a small patio table on the back porch of his inn on 38th and Barnard. “Under the Rainbow is the name of our inn. It’s done in the true spirit of the rainbow. Each guest room is a different color of the rainbow. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet,” he says.
Clark’s angular features soften when he watches his Maltese-mix, Beau, attempt to jump into his lap. But when he is talking politics, his eyes come alive and his cigarette is put out.
One of the issues high on Clark’s list is health care. “Poor people, middle class people, even small business owners like myself are not getting our basic human right to medical care, to life,” he says.
“We have created this system where only those with means are provided with adequate services down the line. We have a right to a government that is proactive, managed well, that truly serves the real needs of all of us. And we’re not getting that.”
Clark removes his glasses, placing them gently but purposefully on the iron table. “This latest general assembly was a colossal failure. The two chief things that the last general assembly provided were tax breaks for the insurance industry, and they passed a law making it legal to carry a firearm—loaded—into restaurants that serve alcohol. That’s what they did for us,” he says.
“We do not have a responsible, proactive government. We have the opposite. We have a broken dysfunctional government. So I am rising to the occasion, putting myself on the line to run this race,” Clark continues. “I pride myself on my good ol’ fashion Missouri-born common sense. I’m like Harry Truman in a lot of ways.”
When Clark moved to Savannah in 1995, he immediately got involved in local politics. He was the first openly gay vice chairman of the local Democratic Party. Currently the senior board member of Gerogia Equality, Clark has also served four years as a co-chair of the First City Network and one year on the mayor’s Crime Task Force.
“Task Force members studied the crime problems intensely, drew up recommendations, and sent them to the mayor and the council. Dan Flynn, the former chief, would have nothing to do with it,” he says.
“So we applied political pressure and community pressure to force him out and recruited a police chief that would be receptive to these common sense recommendations. It is done. It is being done. We were reactivated earlier this spring by Police Chief Berkow to re-evaluate these recommendations, and given time, we will reform the department. We will see a reduction in crime.”
Clark believes that the issues of crime and poverty are intertwined with education issues. “I strongly advocate for not allowing students to drop out at age 16. I believe we should make every student graduate. Also, No Child Left Behind is a failure. It needs to be scrapped. Get rid of this emphasis on testing and return ultimate power to the teachers.”
Clark is also an avid environmentalist. “I was green before it was cool to be green. Between six and seven-thirty every morning, I pick up every morsel of trash in a nine-block radius of my house. I’ve done it since ’99 at this inn. When I am elected State Senator, I am going to continue my litter cleanup. I hope that will elevate my platform.”
A way to help the environment and reduce demand for gas in Georgia would be Clark’s idea for a statewide mass transit system.
“There’s a reason why people don’t use Chatham Area Transit. I envision a transit system like the cable car system in San Francisco,” he says. “Under the pavement on many of the streets, there is track there. It’s just a matter of making it a priority, finding the money, and making a wise investment in this transit system that would be popular with tourists and locals.”
The coming election excites Clark. “I’m an underdog in this race, and I love it. Everything I’ve ever done in my life, I’ve worn the underdog uniform. It fuels me. I enjoy a challenge, and this is my ultimate life challenge so far.”