When gay people run for office, they often turn to gay groups for a little support, including the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. Out and proud Democrat Matthew Vanderpool, who’s running for a Kentucky State House Seat, decided not to procure favors from his lavender pals.
Vanderpool came forward this week to say that he’s not willing to compromise himself for the Victory Fund’s support. Victory Fund executive director Denis Dison, however, points out that the Fund only endorses candidates who ask or apply. Vanderpool was never approached by them, nor did he ever approach them.
Vanderpool’s either a man of principle or a shrewd politician. Regardless, he’s buying into anti-gay politics, and it may be just the right move. Or maybe it’s all wrong.
According to Vanderpool, he doesn’t want to define his campaign by his sexuality, or anyone else’s agenda. “The price attached to accepted money from the Victory Fund were incompatible with my beliefs,” he insisted in a press release “I am gay, but that does not define my entire life or the things I stand for, which are explained in detail on my website. I have no ‘gay agenda.’” Though he supports the Victory Fund’s key tenets, including pro-choice poltiics, Vanderpool refuses to be beholden to any ideological groups.
Dison views Vanderpool’s announcement with some surprise, telling journo Matt Comer, “It is an interesting tactic to contact the press and say you will not accept an endorsement from an organization from which you’ve not applied for an endorsement.” He went on to say, “We endorse people in any party or no party. It is not a matter of asking someone to run on issues that are a part of our endorsement criteria.” Vanderpool, however, isn’t concerned with criteria, agendas or favors. He’s clearly interested in winning.
We’re trying to get them to understand, yes I am a gay candidate and I do support gays but being gay does not define me,” he told Comer. “Excuse me for putting it this way, but if I prance around my district saying ‘gay this’ or ‘gay that,’ it will destroy me. The guy I’m running against is so conservative and anti-gay he will make it look like that is the only reason I’m running.” In Vanderpool’s eyes, accepting, asking for or even being associated with a Victory Fund endorsement would be a political albatross.
Though he may love gay people, Vanderpool’s distancing himself on purpose, clearly aware his incumbent Republican opponent, Stan Lee, could use homosexuality as a wedge issue. Vanderpool views homo harping as “political suicide.” That may be the case.
By distancing himself from the so-called “gay agenda,” Vanderpool has ceded power to Lee, who now makes the agenda. Rather than facing discrimination and homophobia head on, in political terms, Vanderpool wants to make the race about the economy, crime and other universal issues. So, do we judge him. That depends on how you define “political responsibility.” Is it gay?
I don’t have the answers here. Voters, and observers such as myself, need to take time to consider what is more important: a gay politician whose identity and related political rhetoric ends up trumping the race, or someone who, though gay, focusses on winning an election so that he or she can fight the gay fight while in office. Both are equally important, but which is more effective?
Where you stand on this issue notwithstanding, I hope all can agree that Vanderpool has bought into, and perhaps even perpetuated, the anti-gay agenda. Whether or not this tactic comes out on top remains to be seen.