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Gay GOP Candidate Accuses Democratic Rival of Gay-Baiting

Jim Burroway

October 14th, 2011

In case anyone was under the illusion that gay-baiting was strictly a Republican tactic:

Patrick Forrest, the gay Republican running for state Senate in Reston, Va., said he’s heard that Democratic volunteers for State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) have been reaching out to conservative voters in her district to inform them of his sexual orientation in an effort to dissuade them from supporting him.

Forrest said he heard this information from Republicans in Virginia’s 32nd district while knocking on doors and campaigning.

“I’ve been approached by several people … very, very conservative — and had basically said to me, ‘You know, we heard you’re a homosexual,’” Forrest said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’m gay. I’ve always been openly gay.’ Well, we were actually told by … volunteers from the Democrats that you would be promoting the homosexual agenda in our schools.’”

 The Washington Blade obtained recordings of between Eric Newland, Forrest’s field director, and Kavita Imarti, a Democratic precinct captain in Reston, who both justifies the tactic and claims that it is coming from Howell’s campaign:

Asked on the recording to clarify whether this tactic is coming from the Howell campaign, Imarti says, “Yes! You guys are openly prejudiced against someone due to orientation. I think that’s wrong. That’s wrong.”

Later, Imarti says, “What my campaign is saying is here’s your Republican candidate. He’s a homosexual. Why would you want to vote for someone who’s a homosexual and is going to push his agenda in your schools?”

Howell vigorously denies that her campaign is engaging in gay-baiting. Imarti herself is not affiliated with Howell’s campaign, and she now says that she was drunk when the recording was made. Forrest however says that reports of gay-baiting go way beyond Imarti’s admission, and says they include contacts with GOP leaders in the state legislature.

Howell denies the charges, and points to her endorsement by Equality Virginia, as well as her sponsorship of bills allowing companies to provide life and health insurance benefits to the partners of their gay employees and her opposition to the 2006 anti-marriage amendment.

Forrest  has been endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

Comments

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TampaZeke
October 14th, 2011 | LINK

Jim, I’m not aware of ANYONE under such an illusion.

Priya Lynn
October 14th, 2011 | LINK

Zeke, I on the other hand was a bit surprised by this. It not that I thought Democrats were necessarily above this sort of thing but because all the examples of gay baiting I’ve heard up until now were Republicans gay baiting gay/gay friendly Democrats.

Blake
October 14th, 2011 | LINK

Terrible terrible campaigning in action. She’s in essentially a safe district & she’s been in office since 1992. What’s more, according to VPAP she’s out-raised her opponent nearly 4 to 1. Its truly a poor political calculation to get into gay-baiting at this point. The best I can guess is that they’re figuring if they can alienate him from his base then… what? They’ll win by an even larger margin. Stupid.

San Diego Rob
October 14th, 2011 | LINK

Oh snap, though I’m not for gay baiting on either side, I kinda chuckle knowing that it is being done to a republican.

Erin
October 14th, 2011 | LINK

I’ve kinda seen this sort of thing before. A Democrat sent out flyers that reminded voters that his Republican opponent was a middle-aged single woman and questioned if she would advance “family values.” I forget where that was and what office they were running for.

David Waite
October 15th, 2011 | LINK

Jim, this is a cheap shot on YOUR part. I was so shocked by such an allegation against Howell that I had already begun a post for Daily Kos, in which I was prepared to ask fellow kossaks to give her public hell about this matter. Naturally, I was planning to link to the Blade’s article, with a shout-out to BTB for bringing it to my attention.

Then I read the Blade’s article. Jim, you left this admission by Imarti out of your column: “I do not have any knowledge of anything either campaign is doing, any strategy or anything like that,” Imarti said. “I was speaking for myself as a Democrat, as a person.” By only putting in her admission that she was intoxicated, without the preface I quoted above, you leave the impression that she might well have acted with the implicit or explicit consent of the actual Howell campaign. Moreover, you didn’t bother to inform your readers that Frank Kowalski, the Howell campaign manager, said the campaign has sent a message to the coordinated campaign of Fairfax County that Imarti has “no further association — volunteer or otherwise — with our campaign.”

Still, if that were all, you might be excused for being suspicious that Imarti and Kowalski and Howell were merely doing what politicians do best –lying after being caught cheating– and I wouldn’t have bothered with this comment. The part of your column which makes me suspect your own agenda in reporting this is your use of the accusing Republican’s statement that GOP legislators were also targeted with this tactic, without pointing out something the Blade itself was careful to state: The names of the two antigay legislators who the candidate named as having been targeted, and the fact that neither legislator has agreed to comment to the Blade about this alleged targeting of them with this tactic against the candidate. I guess that would have clashed with your lede, Mr. Burroway.

Apparently, I was the first BTB reader to actually click on your link and read the Blade’s article before commenting, and I’m ashamed to say that (until now) because I’ve had such confidence in your integrity, I’ve felt it unnecessary to double check you. This time I did, but only because I was about to raise a big stink about a politician I’ve liked for years.

The Blade’s article clearly reveals that Imarti, a Democratic precinct captain, used gay baiting, and if she did it is very likely that the canvassing team she would have fielded were instructed by her to do likewise. To stretch that infama into an implication that the Howell campaign itself was behind the tactic is a bridge too far, especially in the face of Howell’s stellar record on our issues. Shame on you.

Charles
October 15th, 2011 | LINK

Politics is a dirty game. However, there is nothing wrong with being gay or have people telling others that you are gay. Using such tactics should back fire.

Donny D.
October 17th, 2011 | LINK

TampaZeke wrote:

Jim, I’m not aware of ANYONE under such an illusion.

Nor am I, and while I question that any regular visitors to BTB believe it, in these moronicly hyper-partisan times, I can believe that the kind of person who uncritically frequents the more vociferous and intellectually sloppy left of center websites might.

Timothy Kincaid
October 17th, 2011 | LINK

Let’s let Howell’s campaign speak for itself. Her website talks about her priorities:

Families and children
Equitable Taxes
Job Creation
Legislation
Personal Decisions
Quality Education
Transportation

Nope, no mention of gay rights or discrimination or even diversity. So I thought perhaps we are “personal decisions”. But that is abortion, genetic information, and end of life decisions.

It appears that issues such as marriage equality, DADT, the Gay Tax and the like just didn’t make it onto her radar. So you’ll just have to forgive me if I’m skeptical about Howell being a big supporter.

Which makes me wonder if there was anything at all other than party registration that qualified Howell for Equality Virginia’s endorsement.

Timothy Kincaid
October 17th, 2011 | LINK

Charles,

There’s nothing wrong with “Patrick Forrest’s gay and his partner is a great guy.” But “Patrick Forrest will promote the homosexual agenda in our schools” is homophobic bigotry.

And it looks like it’s backfiring big time. While she’ll probably still win, she now has lost face and has been exposed.

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