Social Conservatives and LGBT Community Join Forces to Defeat Gay Republican

The right thinks he’s a gay rights activist, but the LGBT community don’t think he’s supportive enough.
Photography by Tom Williams/CQ Roll-Call Group

The only thing social conservatives and LGBT activists in San Diego’s 52nd congressional district agree on is that they don’t want Carl DeMaio, the openly gay Republican candidate, to be their next congressman.

Social conservatives have made a deal with the devil, urging voters to support incumbent Democratic Representative Scott Peters over DeMaio. Meanwhile, the candidate never managed to convince the local LGBT community that he was a strong advocate for gay rights.

This week the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay rights/pro-traditional marriage group, joined Republicans and Independents for Scott Peters, a coalition of religious leaders and individuals who would rather see a straight Democrat in office than a gay Republican.

The idea is to suffer through Peters for two years, until “we can work together to elect a true conservative in two years to replace him,” Brian S. Brown, the president of NOM, wrote in a message to “marriage supporters.”

Brown also lent his voice to a robocall urging San Diego voters not to vote for “fake Republican Carl DeMaio,” because it would give him a platform to advance his “flawed ideas.” In the message he asks voters to “consider” voting for Peters.


This is, obviously, not support Peters wants, and, in response, his campaign sent the following statement: “As a long time champion for LGBT equality who is endorsed by the nation's leading LGBT rights groups, Scott Peters strongly condemns all attacks of this sort. They have absolutely no place in politics or anywhere else.”

If electing a Democrat you don’t agree with at all to keep out a Republican you only disagree with sometimes sounds like a dumb idea, then you don’t understand how willing California’s far right are to cut off its nose to spite its face, especially when the GOP has a shot of picking up a House seat in the district. 

San Diego is, more-or-less, equal parts Democratic, Republican and Independent, meaning De Maio had a legitimate shot of winning. The San Diego Union-Tribune released a poll conducted from Oct. 17 to 20 that showed the De Maio and Peters  statistically tied. And that was after a former DeMaio staffer accused him sexual harassment. (He’s since been cleared of the charges.)

“We’re excited about what we’re doing,” Brown told Bloomberg Politics over the phone Thursday, referring to the anti-DeMaio campaign. “We think we’re making a difference.”

While Peters is just as bad, Brown said, social conservatives are “not going to be taken advantage of by the Republican Party," and criticized Speaker John Boehner and the National Republican Congressional Committee for fundraising for DeMaio and “kicking social conservatives to the back of the bus.”

And while Peters could win reelection in two years, at least he won’t be “featured by the leftist media as a ‘new Republican’ to be [sic] role model for young people,” as Brown wrote in a message to “marriage supporters.”

The DeMaio campaign has been diplomatic on the issue. DeMaio has “always been trying to push for a more inclusive Republican party,” said DeMaio spokesman Dave McCulloch. 

The funny thing is, DeMaio likely won’t be a role model for the leftist media, either. Of the three gay Republicans running for office this fall, he’s the only one who wasn’t endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. DeMaio seems to meet all the group’s requirements—he’s open gay, has a “realistic plan” to win, and based on his platform, he supports LGBT civil rights and a woman’s right to choose, and yet the Victory Fund told the Associated Press that DeMaio never sought its endorsement and didn’t qualify for one. His campaign argued that the group had it out for him.

In February, when the Victory Fund’s endorsements were announced, a DeMaio spokesperson told the San Diego Union-Tribune that “when it matters, [the Victory Fund] is about a liberal agenda.”

DeMaio hasn’t had much more luck with the local LGBT community. NOM accused DeMaio of stripping Californians of their vote for Prop 8, the state's overturned ban on same-sex marriage, but in 2008 he was actually silent on the issue. In 2012, while running for San Diego mayor against now-disgraced Democrat Bob Filner, DeMaio accepted donations from a prominent backer of the marriage ban.

The LGBT community hasn’t forgotten those slights and, despite his city council votes to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and mandate that contractors offer benefits to same-sex contractors, he’s seen as someone who doesn’t stand up for the community.

And there’s no love lost between the two communities. In April, DeMaio told Fox News that, actually, social conservatives have been more accepting of his candidacy than gay rights groups. “I’ve found more tolerance, acceptance and inclusion from social conservative groups who have to reconcile that I’m a Republican who happens to be gay...versus the intolerance [of] the LGBT leaders [who] see me as a gay man who happens to be a Republican,” DeMaio said.

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