Monday, August 2, 2010

Ann Arbor Primary 2010 Endorsements

We are on the verge of Michigan’s Primary election. In Ann Arbor we have a shockingly low voter turnout. I mention this not as a civics lesson (though I do wish more people would engage in democracy), but rather as a strategic comment. Your vote really could make a difference. We had an election decided by a half-dozen votes in the recent past.

There are six endorsements that Martin and I are making:
  • Sandi Smith, 1st Ward Ann Arbor City Council
  • Jeff Irwin, 53rd District State House (Rebekah Warren’s former seat)
  • Rebekah Warren, 18th District State Senate (Liz Brater’s term-limited seat)
  • John Hieftje, Mayor, Ann Arbor
  • Garry Post, 47th District State House. Howell, i.e. republican country. Openly gay man running unopposed in the Democratic primary
  • Virg Bernero, Governor
I’d like to specifically talk about three of them, because they all share a common theme…long history of significant support of the LGBT community. I am not a single-issue voter. However, most people who care what I think are interested because of our position in the LGBT community.

In 2004 the gay community was under attack. The republicans had a strategy of putting marriage bans on the ballot before the gay community was ready to press forward with them. They piggy backed conservative candidates with the proposals in 17 states across the United States. Michigan was one of the target states.

Many politicians whom we thought were our friends treated us like the plague. One of the reasons I was an early Dean supporter was because of his early support of Vermont Civil Unions. As a presidential candidate he talked about LGBT issues wherever he went. With Howard Dean these were not red state/blue state issues. These were civil rights issues.

I was very active in the No On 2 campaign in 2004. Three people currently running for office put their political necks on the line for us. Their support of the LGBT community has been tested by fire. I will always stand by these individuals.

In 2004 Rebekah Warren was the Director of the Michigan Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (MARAL). I often say about Rebekah that she did more to try and defeat Prop 2 than any straight person in the state of Michigan. She saw the attack on gay rights as the same as the attack on women's reproductive rights, as a gender-based discrimination. She marshaled enormous resources for us. Since that time she has gone on to serve in the Michigan House. She is active on issues as diverse as the environment, health, women’s rights, biotech, and more. Most important, she builds effective coalitions to effect real change. Rebekah is a great friend of our community, and I am honored to call her a friend of mine.

As an aside, this is one of those elections that I have been saying we have two good candidates. I believe Rebekah is the better choice. I have explained to people why, with the proviso that I had nothing bad to say about her opponent, Pam Byrnes. Pam has changed that in the last several days. The amount of negative mailings coming from her campaign has profoundly changed my opinion of her.

Jeff Irwin and Kathryn Loomis actually refused to marry as long as there were folks in Michigan that are unable to marry because of State Law. The only reason they relented was when they had a child. For the benefit of their kid they needed the many protections and benefits that marriage provided. Jeff truly understands the importance of the issue of gay marriage second-parent adoptions. Other elected officials talk a good talk. On LGBT issues Jeff truly understands what it is to walk in our shoes. In his current position of Washtenaw County Commissioner he was largely responsible for Washtenaw County offering domestic partner benefits to County employees. In 2004, when others were running from the gay community in fear, he supported us without a second hesitation. He understood that in matters of civil rights, being on the right side is more important than political expediency. To me that is profoundly important.

I have known Sandi Smith since 1995 when she and a group of activist men and women founded our LGBT Community Center. In 2004 there would not have been a single yard sign in Washtenaw County saying NO ON 2 if it weren’t for Sandi and just a few other dedicated folks. She was a critical part of the organization that assured an overwhelming victory in Washtenaw County for the defeat of Prop 2.

In addition, Sandi has been one of the hardest working folks on City Council to find a way to balance the budget without cutting basic services. She helped expand bed counts for the homeless during this last bitter winter, is a tireless advocate for expanded public transportation options, has built partnerships with the DDA and the AATA, served on more committees than I can enumerate, and is always the hardest working and best prepared member of any group she belongs to. Ann Arbor is truly a better place because of Sandi’s work.