Samuel Park (D), the son of Korean immigrants, made history on Tuesday after he was elected the first openly gay man to the Georgia legislature.
The Georgia native defeated three-term incumbent Rep. Valerie Clark (R), with 51percent of the vote, becoming state representative for House District 101 in Gwinnett County.
“The election of an openly gay man to the Georgia General Assembly represents just one more step on the road to full equality for LGBT people in Georgia,” Jeff Graham, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy organization Georgia Equality, said in a statement about the historic win.
Those in Park’s county voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at 50.96 percent.
A grandson of refugees from the Korean War, the 31-year-old grew up with two siblings. His single mother supported their family.
“She taught piano lessons and tutored children after school to put food on the table, and stressed the importance of education,” Park wrote on his website.
The 31-year-old, whose campaign focused on economic growth and security, healthcare, and civil rights, explained that it was his mother’s cancer diagnosis in 2014 that impacted his decision to run for office.
“As I take my mom to her chemo appointment every two weeks, I am constantly reminded of the importance of health insurance. Access to healthcare is a matter of life or death,” Park wrote on his website. “Knowing this, based on my experiences and faith, I am compelled to run for public office to ensure all Georgians have access to healthcare by expanding Medicaid in Georgia.”
Park’s run for office prompted his mother to vote for the first time in 30 years, he wrote on his Facebook page.
Park said in his acceptance speech that he looks forward to beginning his journey as an elected official.
“To everyone who supported me, to every voter who opened the door to us, and showed up at the poll,” Park wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday, following the win. “This is our win and I am proud and humbled to be part of this great community.”