LGBT pragmatism in the guv race

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In the first examination of the candidates running for governor, I started out by stating that I was unaligned. And by the end of the analysis, that hadn’t changed. Since we’re only three-and-a-half weeks away from the primary, it’s time to take a second look.

As predicted in that first analysis, by this time Jack Wagner, one of four Democrats, would be pushing daisies. Everyone remotely part of the political process knows this — with the exception of Wagner himself. Most believe he remains in the race due to a blood feud with Dan Onorato, who is also from Allegheny County. By staying in, he hopes to takes votes from Onorato on his home turf. But with little money on hand, it could be his Waterloo, as the vote tally will show him to be very weak on his own turf and he’ll lose credibility. If he were smart, he’d get out rather than be embarrassed. Wagner’s only strong points were pockets of support around the state. That is beginning to fizzle, as county leaders want to be on a winning bandwagon and this wagon is going into the ditch. His hope that his few employees from Philadelphia (who just happen to be ward leaders) might give him any showing in the five-county Democratic region is ill-planned when you note there are two local candidates who are heavily endorsed by the local political forces. As we were going to press, Wagner told Allentown’s The Morning Call he’d support a nondiscrimination bill for homosexuals, but declined to state a position on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He will finish a distant fourth in five-county Philly and most likely come in third in Pittsburgh. The man with the weakest LGBT record is history in this race.

That leaves three: Joe Hoeffel, Onorato and Anthony Williams, with Hoeffel being the favorite of the LGBT community. He, like Wagner, faces a major opponent in his backyard, state Sen. Tony Williams. Hoeffel also suffers from almost no cash and, worse, the entire political machine from Philly is supporting Williams. Hoeffel’s only hope was to win Philly and win it big. That simply is not going to happen. If he’s lucky, he’ll come in second in this area, but there’s also a possibility that he comes in third.

This leaves us with either Williams or Onorato winning the primary. When you look at their records on LGBT issues, Williams stands out. He’s voted numerous times on our behalf, been a cosponsor on legislation and has helped fund our organizations. He’s for civil unions and a nondiscrimination law.

Onorato successfully ended a years-long battle to pass employment nondiscrimination in Allegheny County by working with organizations that traditionally fight such protections for gays and lesbians. He brokered a compromise that included support from even the Catholic Church in Allegheny County. He has a number of top LGBT people on his campaign and, like Williams, supports civil unions and a nondiscrimination law.

Our hearts may be with Hoeffel, but it might be time to be pragmatic. With Williams, we support the local Democratic Party, which has been the bedrock of LGBT rights in Pennsylvania. With Onorato, we have a consensus builder who might get us the legislation we need to protect our community from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation, as 21 other states already have. Those of you who are regular readers of this column are most likely saying you’ve never seen me take so long to support a candidate. The reason is really simple. This time, due to an increase in the number of registered Democrats, the party actually has a chance to hold the governor’s seat instead of the usual eight-year turnover — and that we take seriously. It might be the most important vote we cast. Unaligned, but getting closer.

Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He can be reached at [email protected].