Should Victory Fund endorse DeMaio?Politically Aware Thursday, September 13th, 2012
Commentary: Politically Aware
As election season heats up, two questions seem to be getting an increasing amount of attention in the San Diego LGBT community: “Could the Victory Fund endorse Councilman Carl DeMaio for mayor?” and “Should they?”
The first question is not as absurd as one might think. In the crowded world of interest groups, The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund has a special niche. While their goal to “achieve equality for LGBT Americans …” is mirrored by many progressive and LGBT groups, their method of “increasing the number of openly LGBT officials at all levels of government” sets them apart. Straight allies like Rep. Bob Filner and Scott Peters, no matter how stellar their record on LGBT issues, can’t be endorsed by the Victory Fund.
So what about DeMaio? Beyond the requirement that the candidate be openly LGBT, the Victory Fund’s Web site says candidates must support efforts to advance LGBT rights and support privacy and reproductive freedom. Notably missing are prerequisites to support environmental causes and labor. Those two omissions amount to a welcome sign to Republicans with a libertarian streak, as some have described DeMaio, who support less government in both the bedroom and the boardroom.
The Victory Fund’s final requirement is that candidates “demonstrate community support and a realistic plan.” As a viability test, DeMaio should do fine on this one. Though a recent poll showed Filner with an 8 point lead, he is still only at 40 percent, with more than enough undecided for DeMaio to make up the gap. That compares favorably to Victory Fund endorsee Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who is down by 7.8 points, according to RealClearPolitics.com’s poll-of-polls average, in her race for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.
“Community support” could also be interpreted as the backing of San Diego’s LGBT community. Even then, DeMaio could make the grade. Despite high profile protests at Pride and The LGBT Center Forum, DeMaio counts a number of LGBT community members among his supporters.
So, yes, if his answers on a privacy and reproductive freedom are satisfactory, the Victory Fund could endorse Carl DeMaio. Should they?
Despite a particularly visible presence in San Diego, the Victory Fund is a national organization with long term goals. Endorsing DeMaio could cause at least short-term problems with local progressives and in San Diego’s LGBT community. However, if he meets the same criteria applied to other candidates, not endorsing him could cause longer, and further-reaching, problems.
The Victory Fund believes that “LGBT office holders are our clearest and most convincing champions for true equality.” That makes it hard to explain to a nationwide donor base why they would skip the chance to seat a gay man at the head of the table in America’s Finest (and eighth largest) City – particularly when he voted for a 65-foot Pride flag.
But, for Victory Fund, these questions are not just about maintaining credibility. Open LGBT elected officials really do change the dynamic. It’s one thing to spew hate from a podium. It’s harder (though not impossible) to tell a colleague sitting across the table that she and her wife aren’t in a real marriage. We’ve long known that people with “close friends” who are LGBT are more supportive of our causes, and the same is true for politicians.
If he requests their endorsement and meets their criteria, the Victory Fund could – probably should – endorse DeMaio. That doesn’t mean you have to like it. And it doesn’t mean you have to vote for him. But don’t be too hard on the Victory Fund. They have a good plan. As a wise man said recently when speaking of another issue: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” That man was, Rep. Bob Filner, DeMaio’s opponent.
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