Friday, October 21, 2005

Lesbian Candidate Hit By Dirty Tricks

(Link) A leaflet campaign to smear her goes unpunished, but the local paper seems to be on her side: “It’s up to the voters to determine whether they’re swayed by a candidate’s qualifications — or more by rank prejudice.”

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
Washington Blade

A lesbian running for treasurer of Norfolk, Va., was the target of what some are calling dirty campaign tricks, after fliers calling attention to her sexual orientation were placed on cars outside a candidates’ forum.

No one has claimed responsibility for the fliers that were distributed outside a NAACP-sponsored forum for candidates for city treasurer in Norfolk earlier this month.

The flier purported to be an endorsement from the Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club, and to have been authorized by the Concerned Citizens for Political Education. It featured a photo of Democratic candidate Vivian Paige with a caption that read, “Yes, I’m lesbian and I’m proud! It really doesn’t matter what people think, it’s my life.”

Paige, a longtime Norfolk resident and a certified public accountant with her own firm, is a lesbian, and she was endorsed by the Virginia Partisans, but the fliers were not hers and her sexual orientation had not previously been discussed as part of the campaign. The Concerned Citizens for Political Education denied that it authorized the flier.

Paige is a first-time political candidate and the treasurer’s race is considered by many observers to be the most competitive race in the city of Norfolk. The flier was an attempt to erode African-American support for her candidacy, according to Paige’s campaign consultant, Lisa Turner.

There are four candidates for city treasurer in Norfolk. Incumbent Thomas W. Moss Jr. is running as an independent; he served in the Virginia General Assembly for more than 35 years and was speaker of the House for nine years. John Wesley Hill, the Republican candidate, is a real estate investor. Sherry White-Battle, a small business owner, is also running as an independent.

None of the candidates responded to Blade questions about the fliers and the introduction of sexual orientation as a campaign issue.

Paige is the only accountant among the candidates, and, if elected, she would become the first openly lesbian African-American to win elected office in the state of Virginia, Turner said.

The fliers that addressed her sexual orientation have made news in Norfolk, but it is unclear what effect they may have on the election, which is scheduled for Nov. 8.

‘Most notable orientation’?

On Oct. 15, the Virginian-Pilot newspaper published an editorial titled, “Paige’s most notable orientation? She knows finances.” The column called the distribution of the flier, “insidious” and “nasty,” and said, “It’s up to the voters to determine whether they’re swayed by a candidate’s qualifications — or more by rank prejudice.”

Dyana Mason, executive director of Equality Virginia, praised the Virginian-Pilot for its editorial and called on the other treasurer candidates to disavow anti-gay campaign tactics.

Turner said Paige has received many messages of support and encouragement as she continues her daily campaign meetings.

Turner voiced disappointment that there has been no investigation into who was behind the fliers.

“When campaigns get personal, whether you are straight or gay, it blows back,” Turner said. “This was a bad tactic by whoever did it and I think ultimately it will benefit Vivian.”

Robin Brand is senior vice president of politics and strategy for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which works to elect openly gay officials serving at the federal, state and local level.

Brand said that it is common for gay candidates to be targeted by “dirty tricks” in the final weeks of their campaigns. She characterized the distribution of the flier as “a desperate attempt to try to bring down a strong candidate.”

The Victory Fund has sent information about Paige to its national donors list, is sending staff to Norfolk to get out the vote, and has provided a “significant” PAC contribution to Paige’s campaign, Brand said, though she declined to specify how much the Victory Fund had donated.

Josh Israel, president of the Virginia Partisans said he believes that one of the other candidates was behind the flier.

“This fits into a pattern around the state, of people running for office on homophobia,” he said. “We have a real shot at winning this race, so this tactic puts even more pressure on us.”