December 18, 2009 | by Harley Dennett
Fairfax race to replace Cuccinelli a study in contrasts

Virginia Partisans, the state’s gay Democratic group, was slated Thursday to endorse Del. David Marsden to fill incoming Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s state Senate seat.

Marsden told DC Agenda that he was “proud to accept” the group’s endorsement.

“As a 57-year resident of Fairfax County, I get it,” he said. “Fairfax voters want leaders to concentrate on the key issues: helping small businesses create jobs, protecting our world class schools and ensuring equal justice for all Virginians — not pushing a divisive agenda based on who people are.”

Marsden is running against Steve Hunt, the Republican nominee for the 37th district seat. The former Fairfax school board member drew local LGBT community ire in 2005 after he wrote a letter in support of “ex-gays” speaking in Fairfax schools.

Hunt’s nomination had spurred the Partisans to push hard to support Marsden, said the group’s president-elect Terry Mansberger.

“Hunt is cut from the same cloth [as Cuccinelli]. He’s got an anti-gay agenda,” he said.

“The conservatives have taken over the Republican Party. They are a minority in the county, and probably in the state, but in a special election situation they will get out the vote.

“This should be clear: You’ve got an anti-gay candidate versus a pro-gay candidate and there should be no reason for gay people in Fairfax County to stay home.”

Mansberger said the only protection LGBT Virginians had from further attempts to restrict their rights was the two-seat Democratic majority in the state Senate.

“The Republicans have gone after us in schools, in adoption, on marriage,” he said. “They’ve pushed back on non-discrimination policies in the county government. This next term, the House will put forth a lot of anti-gay legislation, as they always have.”

The race could be close; Cuccinelli only held the seat in 2008 by 91 votes after a recount.

The Partisans have endorsed Marsden in each House election since he first ran for office in 2005. He has not introduced any LGBT-related legislation in that time, but voted against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Virginia Log Cabin Republicans spokesperson David Lampo said the GOP’s LGBT group has not agreed to any endorsements, but feared an anti-gay agenda if Hunt were elected.

“I remember him from his days on the Fairfax school board. I haven’t seen anything to suggest he’s changed those views,” Lampo said.

Hunt later apologized for his letter, saying he was sorry for having offended school staff and breaking board policy by speaking without authorization.

“I apologize to those persons within the community, especially those of the homosexual community, that may have been given the impression that I do not respect their rights or discount them as individuals,” he said in a statement.

But Lampo and other LGBT Republicans felt the apology wasn’t strong enough then to warrant an endorsement now.

“My sense is he still comes out of that Ken Cuccinelli, anti-gay wing of the party. I sense his support is also from that side of the party,” Lampo said.

“Until I see any evidence that he’s moderated his views, I think it is a mistake to reflexively vote for someone like that. The party is in a struggle between the socially moderate and the right-wing faction that wants to pursue the culture war.”

Lampo said he blamed the Democratic Party for failing to sufficiently raise the “outrageous history” that Cuccinelli had on gay rights issues during the attorney general race, and it looked like they were making the same mistake with Hunt.

“The Democrats’ efforts were kind of weak and pathetic [against Cuccinelli]. I fear they’ll be just as apathetic against Hunt.”

Fairfax Equality, a non-partisan group, is working to get the next legislature to pass an employment non-discrimination bill barring government workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“At this stage we don’t know how supported it will be, but we do have many senators and delegates that support us in Fairfax County,” Fairfax Equality president Sarah Gustafson said.

Gustafson said LGBT activists would work with whoever is elected on Jan. 12, 2010.

Democratic nominee David Marsden has agreed to be interviewed by the DC Agenda in an upcoming issue. Republican nominee Steve Hunt’s campaign has not yet responded to DC Agenda’s e-mails or calls.

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