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The unique voter options in Erie

Timothy Kincaid

February 27th, 2012

It’s always a good thing when a Republican politician is supportive on gay issues. It allows voters who support equality more options and brings issues that really are important higher prominence.

And so when four New York Republican Senators voted for marriage equality, it was of benefit not only to the gay community, but to their constituents. Unburdened by an issue that, absent prejudice and theocratic ideology, would not be debated, voters are free to address fiscal policy and matters that impact economic recovery.

Of course, the National Organization for Marriage will seek to make marriage equality an issue in hopes of “punishing” those Republicans for daring to stray from the fold and to put their principles ahead of their party loyalty (though I suspect that they were doing precisely what the party leadership wanted). But for the most part, this is not an issue on which voters are likely to respond; Republicans who may not feel comfortable with gay marriage are not inclined to switch their vote to a Democrat who not only favors equality but differs with them on other issues as well. Voters in these districts will not have to consider their position on the matter in their vote.

Except for one.

As it turns out, the district represented by Sen. Mark Grisanti is one in which pro-equality and anti-equality voters may have to take their position on marriage into consideration and determine the importance they place on social issues. In Erie, there is one candidate whose approach to social issues will be to use his “conscience” to dictate the behavior of others. And New York’s Conservative Party (a small but influential ‘third party’) has given him their endorsement.

The party instead endorsed Charles M. Swanick, a former member of the Erie County Legislature who once changed his affiliation to Republican before returning to the Democrats. Mr. Lorigo said Mr. Swanick had told the county’s Conservatives that he was against same-sex marriage and abortion and in favor of fiscally conservative policies.

“Swanick is not a fall-in-line Democrat,” Mr. Lorigo said. “Swanick will vote his conscience. He’s made a commitment to us that on our issues, on our values, he will vote his conscience.”

Swanick is not yet the Democratic Party’s candidate and it would be a rather peculiar move to coalesce around a social conservative. But Democratic leaders are desperate to win this seat and they are currently shopping for the best candidate with the Conservative Party’s power a consideration.

Should they select Swanick, gay voters and progressives who value individual freedom could have a strong reason to not only vote for the Republican but against the Democrat.

And, unlike some situations, this time a vote which supports a pro-gay Republican does not necessarily end in the support of Republican leaders who will work to defeat equality. In New York, the leadership could have blocked the marriage vote or used power and threat to bring these four representatives in line. Instead, Republicans met in private, came out of caucus, brought the bill to the floor and while the majority voted against the bill, enough voted in favor to secure passage. (I have theories about very bright politicians seeing the winds of change and how a party that effectively blocked equality in New York would be perceived.) Republican leadership is supporting the four in their reelection efforts.

So, depending on how this plays out, this may be a unique situation in which I can, without any hesitation, encourage voters to vote Republican in 2012.

Comments

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andrew
February 27th, 2012 | LINK

buckle up. as gay issues leave the table, Democrats are going to have to scramble to make sure their message remains relevant to LGBT folk.

And the GOP may be astonished to find strong support from many in a community unshackled from the need to line up with the opposition to protect their community.

Ah, what do you do with single-issue voters when the single-issue comes off the table ?

(note: yes, I know many in the LGBTQ community and friends do not vote monolithically, but from a personal perspective, I find my choices constrained not by the individual candidate, but by who has the majority in the legislature, and I don’t like it)

PJB863
February 27th, 2012 | LINK

We had that situation here in IL in, I believe, 1998. The Democratic candidate for governor, Glen Poshard, had an anti-gay voting record and was against a non-discrimination law. The Republican candidate was in favor, and ultimately signed an anti-discrimination bill into law. Unfortunately, that Republican, who the LGBT community turned out for, was George Ryan, who now sits in a federal prison for corruption, but this IS Illinois after all, Ryan’s successor was Rod Blagojevich!

Theo
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

We absolutely have to support Grisanti, no matter who the Dem candidate is. Even if the Dem candidate is pro-equality, we have to support Grisanti.

Why? Because NOM’s goal in defeating Grisanti and the other 3 senators is to terrorize GOP legislators in all the other states that may vote on this issue in the future. That may mean NH, IA, NV, DE, RI and IL to name a few. Even if Grisanti ran against a pro-gay Dem and lost, NOM would spin it as evidence that the Republican base lost its enthusiasm, stayed home, and turned its back on a GOP incumbent who voted for gay marriage. NOM would be perfectly happy to see that result, since it wouldn’t really change anything in NY (where marriage is a done deal) but would chill Republican legislators in many other states.

The way to thwart NOM from realizing this goal is to re-elect all 4 pro-equality GOP senators. Just this once. After 2012, their fate in any election will not be linkable to same-sex marriage and we won’t have to care. But in 2012, it is important that all 4 win.

Fortunately, as of right now, it does not appear that 3 of the 4 have any serious challengers. So right now it is really just Grisanti that we should be pulling for.

Ben Mathis
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

Yes, now that attractive wealthy white gay men have representation, we can vote again for the racist, sexist, xenophobic, fuck-the-poor party once again. Hoorah /sarcasm

TN
February 28th, 2012 | LINK

I wish you would do more general “gay” news stories. I really want to ditch those other horrible blogs and just come here. But you do more in-depth, special stories.

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