Political Notebook: Gay Coloradan brings congressional campaign to SF
by Matthew S. Bajko
A gay Coloradan running for Congress will stump for cash and support in San Francisco next week at a fundraising event at the city's famed nightclub the Endup.
Jared Polis, one of two openly gay non-incumbent congressional candidates running in Democratic primaries next year, is betting that San Franciscans will back his attempt to increase LGBT representation in the House of Representatives.
Political newcomer Andrew Martin , a gay accountant in Las Vegas, is running to defeat Republican Congressman Jon Porter in Nevada's 3rd District. Only two out people â€“ both Democrats â€“ now serve in Congress: Wisconsin Representative Tammy Baldwin and Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank.
"This is the United State Congress that governs the whole nation so one seat is as important as any other," Polis told the Bay Area Reporter during a phone interview Monday, September 10. "There being an opportunity for Colorado to send an openly gay person to Congress has broader social and cultural ramifications for the country. Colorado is not San Francisco."
The state is home to the virulently anti-gay group Focus on the Family and its congressional delegation includes Republican Representative Marilyn Musgrave, the lead sponsor of the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment. To have a gay man representing the state would send a striking message that social conservatives' grip on the political landscape is slipping, argued Polis.
"I think it means a lot, particularly in the same delegation as Marilyn Musgrave, to have someone who brings their partner to delegation dinners," said Polis. "In some circles it still is a big deal, which is one of the reasons why it is important for openly gay people to run. When people meet an openly gay person, it changes their views."
Polis, 32, an online entrepreneur and self-made millionaire, is running in the state's 2nd District, which covers Boulder, Denver's northwestern suburbs, and outlying towns in the state's Front Range and Western Slope areas. The seat opened up after Congressman Mark Udall , a Democrat, announced he would run for U.S. Senate.
Anti-gay groups have yet to try to derail Polis's bid, but he acknowledged his sexual orientation could attract those who would prefer to see him be defeated.
"I haven't seen it yet but I am certainly aware that is quite possible. Certainly, there are conservative people in Colorado who are anti-gay and don't want to see Colorado have an openly gay United States representative," he said.
To date his official campaign Web site makes no mention of the fact he is gay or has been with his partner, Marlon Reis , for four years. Asked about the omission, Polis said he is very open about his sexual orientation and that the Web site is a work in progress.
"As we add more â€“ there really is not much of a family or personal section there â€“ we will add that. I certainly discuss my partner publicly and I am out publicly," said Polis. "It is not going to be an emphasis of the campaign. People care more about Iraq, health care, and education, but we certainly are not running away from it."
Along with Polis, a former state Board of Education member, state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, of Coal Creek Canyon, and conservationist Will Shafroth , of Boulder, are running for the Democratic nomination. A reliably Democratic district â€“ so far no Republican has gotten into the race â€“ whoever wins the August 2008 primary is expected to easily win the November general election.
Fitz-Gerald and Polis tangled earlier this year over a voter-approved ethics measure that Polis backed. Along with being a champion for education reform, Polis has also been a vocal critic of the interplay between financial contributions and politics.
"I think we have a terrible system that requires candidates to raise so much money," said Polis.
His campaign hit several bumps this summer that generated local headlines and headaches for the candidate. Last month Polis personally apologized to his opponents â€“ as well as U.S. Senator Ken Salazar and U.S. Representative John Salazar â€“ after a staffer attacked the four Democrats on the Web site My Direct Democracy. The staffer quickly resigned.
Then Polis's campaign had to backtrack from an e-mail he sent out claiming he didn't take "lobbyist money" after local media determined several of Polis's contributors were indeed registered lobbyists. A campaign spokesperson said the lobbyists were friends of Polis, but his rivals quickly lambasted Polis for the discrepancy.
Despite the recent hiccups Polis is viewed as a formidable opponent. In particular he is credited with using his wealth to help Democrats win control of both houses in the state's legislature.
Polis made his bid for the seat official in May and has raised a little more than $300,000 for his campaign, besting Shafroth by just $1,000. He needs to raise at least $1.5 million to be competitive, though he could dip into his personal coffers. He already has pumped $155,000 of his own cash into the race.
Endup co-owner Sydney Leung said he met Polis in Los Angeles in 2000 at a political fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, who was then running for a New York Senate seat. The two hit it off politically and became friends. After Polis entered the race, Leung offered to host a fundraiser at his club.
"I think it is important because he is one of very few openly gay candidates for Congress. I think it is important to support out candidates. Even though he may be in Colorado, he is going to speak for the gay community nationwide," said Leung.
The fundraiser will take place from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 18. Attendees are being asked to make a suggested donation of $50. The Endup is located at 401 6th Street at Harrison.
Alice endorses Ammiano
Supervisor Tom Ammiano this week secured the early endorsement of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club in his bid for the 13th District Assembly seat now held by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who is running for the Senate seat held by Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco). More than two-thirds of the club's members who voted Monday, September 10 opted to give Alice's nod to Ammiano, who so far is running opposed in the June 2008 Democratic primary.
It is the second LGBT club to back Ammiano in the race; the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club voted last month to give its early backing to the openly gay politician. Ammiano will be feted at a fundraiser this Saturday that board colleague Supervisor Bevan Dufty is hosting at his lower Haight home.
Police Commissioner Joe Alioto Veronese , who is running against Leno, Migden, and Marin County resident Phil Kranenburg, officially kicks off his Senate campaign Tuesday, September 18 with a roving tour of the district on a biodiesel-alternative-fuel bus dubbed the Alioto Veronese Express. The bus takes off from North Beach for a community rally in Hunters Point at 10 a.m. then makes its way to Marin and Petaluma. Â
The following day Migden and Leno will put their political dueling aside to join with Ammiano, Dufty, and a host of local LGBT politicos to host a fundraiser for the San Francisco Democratic Party from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, September 19 at Medjool, 2522 Mission Street. There is a suggested donation of $75.
The party originally had been scheduled for Wednesday, September 12 but apparently no one, including the three Jewish hosts, realized that date was the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year, until this past Monday, when a date change notice went out.
Out congressional candidate Jared Polis