In Mississippi’s tiny District 66, just south of the Delta and hugging the western edge of Jackson, 1,907 eligible voters cast their ballots in a primary election in September 2020 to send a representative down the road to the State House.
Fabian Nelson earned just 33.
McBride spoke with LGBTQ Nation about her friendship with Joe Biden, her groundbreaking career, and the contents of her high school LinkedIn profile.
Now the gay foster father of four is back on the campaign trail ahead of an August primary, competing against one of his opponents from the 2020 race — a Black military vet and pastor — for a bigger slice of the district’s small electoral pie and a spot on another special election ballot in November.
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If elected, Nelson, who holds a BS from Jackson State University and a Master’s in Business Administration from American Public University, would be the first LGBTQ+ state lawmaker in the history of Mississippi, a state that currently has zero out LGBTQ+ elected officials at any level.
In an area that is predominantly Black but culturally conservative, the 38-year-old real estate agent is definitely swimming against the current just miles from the mighty Mississippi.
I caught up with Nelson on a hot day at his home near the Capital to talk about his candidacy, what motivates him to run, and what life is like for a Black gay dad in the heart of the Old South.
LGBTQ Nation: How did you come to pursue a seat in the Mississippi House of Representatives?
Fabian Nelson: I’ve been selling real estate for over 15 years now, and it’s something that I absolutely love doing because I get to work with people. And that’s how a lot of my advocacy work began, by helping advocate for families. Our target demographic is first-time homeowners, a lot of people that thought they couldn’t buy a house. We sell $100,000 houses all day, every day. We prefer to sell those over $5-$600,000 homes because we’re building our communities up in that way. So we teach a lot of financial literacy classes, help people get their credit where it needs to be. So my advocacy work started there, and it’s something I absolutely enjoy doing.
LGBTQ Nation: You first ran for this seat in the State House in a special primary election in 2020 among a field of six candidates. You got 33 votes out of 1900 and change that year.
LGBTQ Nation: This year, you’re running for the same office, against one of those same opponents that you were competing against the last time and lost to. What makes you think the outcome is going to be different?
FB: I’m not making any excuses, but it was a special election and we were in the middle of a pandemic, so it was hard to really get out there and canvas. People didn’t vote for me because they didn’t know who Fabian Nelson was.
This time, when I qualified for the ballot on January 15, that next week I was outside knocking on doors. I’ve been at every community event, every HOA meeting. I’ve been going to churches, I’ve been networking with pastors. We’ve knocked on 2500 doors in the past two weeks. We just sent a mailer out two weeks ago, and we’ve got another mailer dropping this week. And so the thing about it is visibility. Making these connections, letting people get to know me and who I am. That’s why we’re going to win this time.
LGBTQ Nation: What’s your message to voters about your priorities if you make it to the State House in Jackson?
FB: Number one is fully funding education. Our children are not getting the resources they need and I’m starting to see that at the schools where my kids are. Our teachers just got a pay raise in Mississippi, but they’re still amongst the lowest-paid teachers in the nation. In Mississippi, we have what are called public charter schools. And what happens is, with these charter schools money is diverted from public education. We do not need to be giving money to charter schools when we’re not fully funding our public schools. We got to take care of home first before we start taking care of these other entities.
Second priority is Medicaid expansion. What we have happening now is we’re seeing rural hospitals closing their doors because they don’t have funding. They have to treat patients and they can’t get reimbursements because people don’t have Medicaid. We’re seeing services cut in Jackson, in the capital city. At Central Health Care in Jackson, in my district, they’ve cut all of the services except for emergency room, labor and delivery, and mental health. And so our people within our district are not getting adequate health care.
Third part of my platform is economic development, and that’s kind of a tricky one. Because, like I tell people all the time, I can’t tell you that we’re gonna get businesses to come and beat the doors down to get into District 66, because for one, we don’t have a reliable water system. Two, we have a very bad crime problem. So for me, economic development, it’s also infrastructure development: making sure that we have safe drinking water, that we get broadband expansion — we don’t even have internet in some parts of our district and no company is gonna come here without that. Making sure that we’re doing things to get crime under control, and it’s also making sure we have business-friendly legislation on the table, things that are going to protect our businesses that do choose to come here to Mississippi. If we make it attractive, they’re going to come.
LGBTQ Nation: I was shocked to learn that from 2013 to 2022, Mississippi gave up 14 and a half billion dollars in federal funding for Medicaid.
FB: Yeah. It’s a disgrace. Every time I go talk to a group of people, I’ll ask, “Do me a favor. If you have a job, raise your hand. If you pay federal taxes, raise your hand.” All the hands pop up. I tell them, “Congratulations, you just funded Medicaid in another state.” It’s a disgrace that we’re funding Medicaid in other states, and we’re not taking advantage of it here in Mississippi.
LGBTQ Nation: What are some of the qualities you possess that would make you an effective representative for the folks in your district?
FB: I listen to people. And I get people involved. I want to reconnect people back to government again. Because people are so disconnected. People don’t hear about things, new laws, until they’re actually passed. I want to have an open-door policy. I give my cell phone number out. You know, I’m the people’s candidate. I tell people all the time, I say, “We have to stop looking at our politicians to save our communities. It’s up to us to save our communities.”
But I’m also an advocate for making sure as a legislator I’m giving my community the resources that they need to thrive, which I think is something that’s completely missing. We have so many people going into office and they’re looking at what they want. Like I tell people, it’s not about me. I’m a representative. I represent you. I represent your interests. I want to build that bridge and get people to start trusting the legislative process again.
LGBTQ Nation: What’s your favorite part of being a dad?
FB: Wow. My favorite part of being a dad is coming in after a long day of work, after being beat down by anything and everybody, and opening my door. And when I open that door, I hear the feet runnin’, and everybody says, “Dad!”
My favorite part of being a dad is when I wake up in the morning. Each morning I wake up, and I open my bedroom door up. And when I open the door, hearing the feet running down the hall, and all the kids run up and give me a hug in the morning and say, “Hey! Good morning, Dad!”
LGBTQ Nation: How have your potential constituents reacted to a gay man running to represent them?
FB: You know, the thing about it is, I haven’t seen the ugly side of people yet. I’ve given people the opportunity to get to know Fabian and to get to know who Fabian is, and people have fallen in love. When they see Fabian, it’s hard. They fall in love.
I have a voter in my district, Miss Emma. She’s an older lady. We had a crisis here in Jackson, a garbage crisis, where they stopped picking up garbage. So I was out picking up Miss Emma’s garbage one day, on a Tuesday, and she was happy and cheerful. And I went back on a Thursday and something was off. And she told me, “Baby, something is bothering me.” I said, “What is it, Miss Emma? Talk to me.” And she said, “I don’t want you to take it the wrong way.” I said, “No, it’s okay, Miss Emma. Talk to me. What is it?”
She said, “Well, one of your opponents came by here and asked me about you. They knew you were picking my garbage up.” And she said, “Yeah, I told him I’m supporting you, and you’re really what we need. And your opponent said, ‘Well, how do you feel about electing a gay guy to be your representative?'” And Miss Emma said, “I just looked at him for a minute and told him, ‘I’ve been voting for straight people for all these years, and not one of them has come by and picked my garbage up and cleaned out my flower bed. I’m voting for Fabian, I don’t care, and you can get off my porch.'”