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    May 06, 2008

    A nonsensical non-endorsement from HRC

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: Kay Hagan won today's North Carolina Democratic primary by a landslide, taking 61% of the vote to Jim Neal's 20%. Keep in mind there were five candidates in the race and Neal placed second, but still it was a blowout. No doubt Neal's very long odds played into HRC's decision not to endorse -- echoed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which also steered clear of the race.

    I still view those decisions as unfortunate and short-sighted, not to mention self-fulfilling. Neal's candidacy was credible and generated a great deal of grassroots excitement among LGBT folks and a number of progressives in and out of North Carolina. With the assistance of groups like HRC and the Victory Fund, Neal would no doubt have performed better -- laying the groundwork for himself and others.

    In the last two decades, the LGBT groups in Washington have become incredibly more sophisticated politically, and that's mostly a very good thing. But sometimes their inside-the-Beltway mentality prevents them from taking risks and investing in the future, even when conventional analysis sees a particular contest as a huge longshot.

    JimnealbigORIGINAL POST: I'm behind the curve commenting on the recent decision by our blinded-by-the-Beltway friends at the Human Rights Campaign not to endorse any candidate in the North Carolina Democratic Senate primary. Controversial endorsement calls have actually been one of the few areas historically that I've generally agreed with and defended HRC (yes, publicly).

    But the "no nod" in the race between openly gay businessman Jim Neal and veteran state Sen. Kay Hagan is a head-scratcher of an entirely different sort. By most accounts, Neal has run a smart campaign and against the odds has polled well enough to appear viable in the contest with Hagan to see who will challenge vulnerable GOP incumbent Elizabeth Dole.

    Hagan apparently has a strong gay rights record, but there's a fundamental difference between a gay candidate and a gay-friendly candidate. History has shown over and over just how more effective and instrumental openly gay elected officials can be; just look at Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin in the House.

    The election of an openly gay U.S. senator, especially from the Deep South, would be ground-breaking and historic. And even if Neal should fall short, a primary victory or even a respectable finish lays important groundwork for the future -- for Neal himself and other out contenders as well as politicians still cowering in the closet.

    The smart folks over at HRC know all this, of course, but as on so many issues they are loathe to rock the boat for fear of offending Democratic party chieftains, who are backing Hagan, or mucking up their cherished win-loss record in endorsed races -- a tally artificially propped up by backing a buttload of completely safe incumbents.

    It's time for HRC to grow a pair, to use a testicular metaphor of the sort being tossed at Hillary Clinton of late, and show the big-equals-org isn't simply the tool of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign. Committee.

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    Comments

    1. Mark Hertzog on May 6, 2008 11:41:43 AM:

      You go, Chris--this North Carolinian thanks you for your good words on the subject. One slight correction: North Carolina is upper South, geographically and (save for Jesse Helms) attitudinally, and we'd like not to be confused with our hard-right neighbors in South Carolina, which is where the Deep South begins.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on May 6, 2008 11:59:05 AM:

      I took a quick look at this guy's website and, oddly enough, I did not see anything about his position on gay issues or even civil rights issues. Curious.

      I know he's running for senate in an extremely conservative state, and that strong advocacy for gay issues is probably political poison. Still, you'd think he'd at least have some kind of vague reference to "civil rights for all people" or something like that on his website. The fact that he's openly gay counts for something, but still, an official statement about civil rights would have been nice.

      Also, I'd like to add that I wouldn't endorse a gay or gay-friendly candidate simply because he was gay or gay-friendly. As it happens, Neal has strong, progressive views on a variety of issues I think are important. So, I think HRC and other gay rights organizations should endorse him for that reason. I hope he wins.

      Thanks Chris, for bringing this to our attention.

    1. Geena The Transgirl on May 6, 2008 1:18:08 PM:

      If you would like to see recent polling numbers on Neal vs Hagan, Dole vs Neal, Dole vs Hagan, go here:
      Real Clear Politics: Hagan: The Next Webb?
      Daily Kos: NC - Sen

      Neal has a 2 point difference against Dole compared to Hagen. It's not as if he wouldn't be competitive.

      Also why did Neal not win a Victory Fund endorsement?

    1. The Gay Species on May 6, 2008 8:15:25 PM:

      It's time that those with "ball" understand HRC is a DNC political action committee (PAC), launched by the feminists of Emily's List. It is NOT a human rights organization. For someone who thinks he knows HRC obviously cannot read its webpage (a good place to start, and look behind the fluff and puff).

      As a DNC PAC I would not expect it to endorse ANY Republican, why would YOU?

    1. austinpal on May 6, 2008 11:18:31 PM:

      Well it's clear HRC was correct. Neal was not viable, and his is a massive loss, and shows he wasn't operating in the real world. We can say HRC wasn't a knee-jerk supporter of the gay guy, but we can't say they don't know what they're talking about politically.

      And that's important. We can't win by wasting money on people who make us feel good.

    1. austinpal on May 6, 2008 11:19:27 PM:

      Well it's clear HRC was correct. Neal was not viable, and his is a massive loss, and shows he wasn't operating in the real world. We can say HRC wasn't a knee-jerk supporter of the gay guy, but we can't say they don't know what they're talking about politically.

      And that's important. We can't win by wasting money on people who make us feel good.

    1. Brian Miller on May 7, 2008 8:25:34 AM:

      HRC isn't a gay rights organization, it's a subsidiary of the Democratic Party. When the convenience of the Democrats is in opposition to the long-term goals of gay Americans, HRC can be relied upon to subsume gay issues to DNC priorities.

      Every single time.

    1. outpostah on May 7, 2008 4:54:53 PM:

      Neal was also not endorsed by Equality North Carolina. Hmmm, could Ian Palmquist be beholden to Chuck Schumer too????? Uh, unlikely.

      Perhaps the reason gay groups didn't support Jim Neal had nothing to do with party politics and everything to do with...Jim Neal. Just a thought.

    1. Brian Miller on May 7, 2008 7:41:57 PM:

      Perhaps the reason gay groups didn't support Jim Neal had nothing to do with party politics

      Yes, and I've got a bridge in San Francisco to sell you, cheap. Perhaps you'd like to pay cash for it?

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