Monday, August 13, 2007

Three Of The "Big Four" Salt Lake Mayoral Candidates Jenny Wilson, Ralph Becker, And Keith Christensen Pandering To The Homosexual Lobby

According to a story published in the Deseret Morning News on August 12th, 2007, some Salt Lake mayoral candidates are behaving more like they're running races in San Francisco or Boston than Utah. Campaign reports show candidates are spending money to court gay and lesbian groups, to support Planned Parenthood, to buy liquor and even to entertain campaign staff at the Salt Lake Acting Company's famously irreverent "Saturday's Voyeur." Full story HERE. This post will focus primarily on their outreach to the gay community.

Jenny Wilson, a City Council member who currently holds a slight lead among the nine official candidates according to a recent Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, appears to be romancing the gay community most ardently. "I've been told by the (Democratic) party and those who know city elections that if you don't do well in the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) community, you don't do well in the election", said Wilson. Wilson further consummated the relationship by donating $2,500 to Equality Utah.

Ralph Becker, the State House Democratic minority leader from Salt Lake, isn't quite as ardent as Wilson, having spent only about $400 on tickets or ads at gay pride events, but has released a new TV ad that seems to subtly court the gay vote. The ad leads off listing endorsements by two Salt Lake Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Scott McCoy and Rep. Jackie Biskupski, both of who are openly gay. It also pictures Becker with them and with Rep. Chris Johnson (D-Salt Lake), the only other openly gay legislator. The ad also shows Becker with a sign with rainbow colors — another symbol of gay and lesbian support — at a local gay pride event. However, Becker's ad does not explicitly link him to gay issues, nor does it identify the three lawmakers as gay. And to Becker's credit, former first lady Norma Matheson is also supporting him. Norma is the wife of the universally-respected former Democratic Governor Scott Matheson, whose son, Jim, represents Utah's 2nd House District in the U.S. House of Representatives and is considered a conservative Democrat. [Ed. Note: What is it with Democrats and queers, anyway? You almost need a crowbar to pry them apart! LOL!]

On their respective websites, both Wilson and Becker outline aggressive programs to protect all citizens' human rights, but with special emphasis on the rights of gay and lesbian Salt Lakers. Wilson writes on her site: "I am proud to stand behind the GLBT community as an ally and a friend."

Former City Council member Keith Christensen, a political independent, posts on his website a newspaper story quoting him as saying that Salt Lake City businesses should be required by ordinance to protect gay rights by adopting nondiscrimination policies. Christensen also ponied up a $125 gay pride parade fee.

Republican mayoral candidate Dave Buhler seems to be the exception. He neither gave money to some of those same groups, nor does he mention GLBT issues on his website. Biut even he wavered somewhat, attending a Equality Utah/Planned Parenthood candidate forum, where he voiced moderate support for some gay issues, such as flying a gay pride flag at City Hall during gay pride events.

Mike Thompson, executive director of Equality Utah, says candidates are courting the gay community more, in part because they know it is highly politically active — making large donations, volunteering and voting. He says gays are politically active because "when issues affect your family and your livelihood, that's when people are most engaged. And we are engaged."

Gay-group money can be significant. Thompson said that the three Utah groups that give the largest donations per candidate are, in order: Bruce Bastian (the gay-activist co-founder of WordPerfect), the Utah Education Association and Equality Utah. "The fact we trail only the UEA (and gay-activist Bastian) in average gift size shows the influence we have. Candidates know that. And not only do they want that financial support, but also the volunteers we can provide," he said.

Neverthless, no one really knows just how large the gay vote is in the city, or the vote by heterosexuals who actively support gay and lesbian issues. But the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey in 2000 estimated that Salt Lake City had 968 homes headed by gay couples (or 1,936 people). Of course, that doesn't count any gays who were not then in a live-in situation, or any same-sex couples who decided not to list themselves as such on the official census records.

But Thompson says thousands of gays living in the city is significant because in 2003 only 25,000 Salt Lakers voted in the mayoral primary and just over 40,000 voted in the final. That means gays are likely a significant number of those who do vote. If most of those gays voted, they would have made up 8 percent of the primary voters and 5 percent of the final election voters.

The other five candidates were not discussed in the story, except for a brief reference to J.P. Hughes, who paid $75 to Planned Parenthood for a booth rental. The other four "Second Tier" candidates are John Renteria, Robert Muscheck, Rainer Huck, and Quinn Cady McDonough. Hughes appears to be the most serious of the five. An article in the Salt Lake Tribune provides a brief rundown on each candidate's platforms. Most likely their aspirations will come to an end during the runoff election on September 11th, when only the two top finishers will go on to the general election. Since the race is officially non-partisan, the top two finishers can belong to the same political party. Some observers believe those top two will be Jenny Wilson and Ralph Becker because of their experience and name recognition, but the two replicate each other too much and Salt Lakers might want to have a more discernable choice. I believe one of the two finishers will be either Wilson or Becker, but the other could be Keith Christensen or Dave Buhler, most likely Buhler.

And finally, here's an interesting sidelight. Robert Muscheck's candidacy apparently attracted a brief flurry of interest outside of Utah. On June 8th, Libertarian Socialist News editor Bill White, who doubles as Commander of the American National Socialist Workers Party (ANSWP), published a story in which he identified several of Muscheck's values as consistent with the ANSWP worldview. White did NOT officially endorse Muscheck, but the article made it appear as if he did. On June 13th, the Deseret News printed a brief statment reflecting Muscheck's denial of any ties with the ANSWP (note that the link is to a Google cache; the original link no longer works possibly because the Deseret News overhauled their website recently). White himself published a clarification on his Overthrow88 companion blog on June 12th.

Deseret News/KSL poll conducted on July 17-19 by Dan Jones & Associates, with a sample size of 400, and a margin of error of +/- 5%:

Don't Know - 26%
Wilson - 23%
Buhler - 19%
Becker - 13%
Christenson - 13%
Hughes - 2%
Renteria - 1%
McDonaugh - <1%
Huck - <1%
Muscheck - 0%

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