Transgender Politician Fights Fraud Claims

RIVERDALE, Ga. (AP) _ Four years after she won a City Council seat making her what is believed to be Georgia's first transgender politician Michelle Bruce is battling a lawsuit launched by an unsuccessful opponent who claims she misled voters by running as a female.

Bruce, a tall woman with shoulder-length graying hair, says she has always identified herself as transgender.

She said, "I've always been Michelle. If someone has a problem with that, I can't help them. It's a personal issue.''

The 46-year-old, who runs an auto repossession business, launched her political campaign in 2003. Running unopposed, she landed one of four council seats and pledged to attract more jobs and residents to Riverdale, a gritty town of 12,000 about 12 miles south of Atlanta, lined with rundown strip malls and used car shops.

Three rivals ran against her in her November 6th bid for re-election. She captured 312 votes, not enough to avoid a December 4th runoff against second-place finisher Wayne Hall, who earned 202 votes.

Then the third-place finisher, Georgia Fuller, who collected 171 votes, filed a lawsuit claiming election fraud.

The complaint, identifying Bruce as "Michael Bruce" claims she misled voters by identifying herself as female. It asks a judge to rule the November election results invalid and order another general election.

Fuller did not return calls seeking comment, but her attorney said that voters in Riverdale tend to favor female candidates, particularly if they are incumbents.

The suit is unlikely to be settled before the December 4th runoff, but Bruce says she sees it as an attempt to alienate her from voters.

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