By Claire Trageser Monday, February 24, 2014
Congressional candidate Carl DeMaio made national headlines recently with a new campaign ad. The ad shows Republican former City Councilman DeMaio and his partner Johnathan Hale walking hand-in-hand during a gay pride parade, while a voiceover says DeMaio "believes in equality and diversity and is a defender of our personal freedoms."
The Wall Street Journal reported this is the first time any Congressional candidate of either party has featured a same-sex partner in an ad. Although the commercial is not yet being shown on TV, its mark on history added early interest to a race that is expected to draw national focus and funding anyway as freshman Congressman Scott Peters, a Democrat, fends off the challenge from DeMaio to represent the 52nd Congressional District.
But some members of San Diego's gay community have not received the ad warmly.
Congressional candidate Carl DeMaio made national headlines with a recent commercial. But some members of San Diego's LGBT community are not embracing the ad.
LGBT activist Will Rodriguez-Kennedy is a Republican-turned-Democrat and former president of the local chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, a Republican gay rights advocacy group (he resigned after making a purchasing mistake with the group's debit card). Rodriguez-Kennedy views the ad as political opportunism and said DeMaio does not have a track record of advocating for gay rights.
"His personal community was fighting a major civil rights issue, and he was quiet," Rodriguez-Kennedy said. "That speaks to a person's integrity, it speaks to a person's political courage, and it's something that should be at issue in a political campaign, especially when we have Washington politicians who typically lack political courage."
DeMaio was not yet a member of the City Council when it voted on endorsements of same-sex marriage in 2007 and 2008, but did vote for a council call to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, as well as a resolution to require city contractors to offer benefits to same-sex partners. He also helped install a rainbow flag in Hillcrest. Still, he's had a troubled past with San Diego's gay community.
During the 2011-2012 mayoral race, the San Diego Log Cabin Republicans did not endorse DeMaio or another gay Republican candidate, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
Then DeMaio was booed and hissed at during a mayoral debate at The San Diego LGBT Community Center. Opponent Nathan Fletcher said DeMaio had attacked him for supporting gay rights to win favor with Republicans.
"Let me make something perfectly clear," DeMaio responded. "I have never criticized any of my opponents for…."
The crowd cut in, shouting "Liar! Liar!" until the moderator, KPBS reporter Tom Fudge, quieted them.
"I have not criticized any of our candidates for their positions on social issues, nor will I, because I do not believe the roll of the mayor is to advance a social issue agenda," DeMaio continued. The crowd erupted again in boos, hisses and more calls of "Liar!"