The National Stonewall Democrats have launched an initiative to put a pro-LGBT Democratic nominee on the ballot this year for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.).
The organization is asking supporters to sign a petition to persuade the Indiana Democratic Party to select a nominee who would back pro-LGBT legislation in Congress.
Bayh announced his resignation on Monday, one day before the due date when candidates had to submit petition signatures to qualify as a Democratic candidate in the upcoming Senate race. No one submitted enough signatures, so the Indiana Democratic Party will select a nominee to run in the general election.
Michael Mitchell, Stonewall’s executive director, said on Thursday “a decent number” of people have already signed his organization’s petition, although he wasn’t sure exactly how many names had been gathered. He said he would love to have several thousand supporters sign and said people from out-of-state are eligible.
“We would love to see that seat go to a pro-equality Democrat, not just for the folks in Indiana — which would be wonderful because they certainly deserve that — but I think the rest of the country deserves to have more pro-equality elected officials in the House and the Senate,” Mitchell said.
Despite this effort from Stonewall, media sources are reporting that Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) is the expected Democratic nominee for the seat and the lawmaker may soon announce his candidacy.
Ellsworth is hardly a pro-LGBT candidate. He’s voiced support for amendment to a U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage throughout the country. Ellsworth voted twice against hate crimes protections legislation, although in 2007 he voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Even with this reporting, Mitchell said he’s “not so sure” Ellsworth has been designated as the nominee and said the petition may “shake things up a bit and maybe move that person closer to where we are.”
Mitchell said he doesn’t have a particular candidate in mind that the Indiana Democratic Party could select as the nominee for the Senate race.
Asked whether he thinks a pro-LGBT Senate candidate can win in Indiana, which is known to be a conservative state, Mitchell said such a contender “can win anywhere if they’re the right candidate.”
“We need to start articulating better that LGBT values are American values,” he said. “We want to make sure that we have the same rights to take care of our families that other familes have. I think what we need are candidates who can articulate that in a way that folks get it.”