July 15, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
Gay Fla. city councilman seeks U.S. House seat

A gay city councilman in Florida has won several high-profile endorsements in his bid for a U.S. House seat.

Scott Galvin, who serves on the North Miami City Council, is among nine contenders seeking the Democratic nomination to represent Florida’s 17th congressional district. The primary is set for Aug. 24.

Galvin said he’s running for Congress because the U.S. faces what he called “a challenging time in our nation’s history.” Among the issues that Galvin said he wants to “bring background to Washington on” are national security issues overseas.

“We’ve got military challenges not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but, I think, right around the corner, right in front of us — challenges in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula,” Galvin said.

The seat Galvin is seeking to win is held by Rep. Kendrick Meeks (D-Fla.), who’s vacating the position to run for the U.S. Senate.

Among the national LGBT organizations that are backing Galvin are the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and the National Stonewall Democrats. Galvin said Florida Together, a local LGBT organization, also has thrown its support behind him.

Denis Dison, spokesperson for the Victory Fund, said his organization endorsed Galvin because he met the criteria considered in the organization’s endorsements. Such criteria include having a plan necessary to raise the money to compete.

“The political team and our board both agreed that there was a path to victory for Scott,” he said.

One of the factors that Dison cited in the Victory Fund’s endorsement was the crowded Democratic primary.

“When there are nine people running for this nomination, it’s much different than if you just have one or two people competing,” Dison said.

Local endorsements for Galvin have also come from Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl and Broward County Tax Appraiser Lori Parrish.

Galvin said he is additionally pursuing an endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign. He noted the organization was expected to meet this week to discuss an endorsement for his campaign.

Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, said Galvin “has a strong shot” at winning because of the crowded primary field.

“A strong … turnout can make the difference between winning and losing,” she said. “So, I think there’s going to be a real race.”

Smith said Equality Florida won’t make an endorsement in the race because her organization doesn’t have a federal political action committee. She nonetheless noted Equality Florida would help in get-out-the-vote efforts.

Galvin said LGBT issues would be “a very high priority” for him if elected to Congress. But he noted that Congress would likely tackle some of those issues, such as repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” before he would take office.

Among the pro-LGBT issues Galvin said he would support are the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Uniting American Families Act. Galvin also supports same-sex marriage and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Galvin said the Food & Drug Administration’s ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood has long been “a pet peeve” for him and that the policy makes no sense “at all levels.”

“I don’t know why there would be a need to wait,” Galvin said. “Most of the blood banks themselves advocate for getting rid of it. Unfortunately, the stars haven’t aligned.”

Galvin said he would support legislation to overturn the ban, even though he thinks the Department of Health & Human Services should end the ban administratively.

Another issue Galvin cited as important to him was LGBT adoption rights, a priority spurred in part by Florida’s law preventing gays and lesbians from adopting.

Galvin said he was adopted by a straight couple and can “speak quite personally for the need for babies that are put up for adoption to find loving, caring homes.”

Still, Galvin called the ban “a state issue” and said he doesn’t know how much he’d be able to impact the ban as a member of Congress.

“It’s not something I’d have a direct vote in necessarily, but I would use my influence to pressure local legislators — from the governor on down to our local House people — to overturn it if there was an opportunity,” he said.

Legislation pending in Congress known as the Every Child Deserves a Family Act would address the adoption ban in Florida. The bill would restrict federal funds for states like Florida that allow discrimination in adoption based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Galvin said he wasn’t familiar with the legislation, but said it sounds like something he’d support as well as “whatever the federal government can do” to address the adoption issue.

Galvin said discussions about whether sufficient progress has already been made 18 months within the Obama administration shows “things are actually moving quicker than … some want to give the president credit for.”

“Would I rather see him with a sweeping stroke of the pen do everything on one day?” Galvin said. “Absolutely. I also know — and this is just politics — things do move slowly.”

Galvin said judging the president would be more effective at the end of his first term as opposed to before the mid-term election.

“I certainly applaud the president for pushing LGBT issues and I’d like to see him move faster,” he said. “Hopefully, if I’m one of those sitting in Congress, I’ll be able to help make that happen.”

During his tenure on the city council following his first election in 1999, Galvin advocated for LGBT issues. He said he helped obtain domestic partner benefits for city workers and institute a policy requiring city contractors to provide such benefits to their employees.

Galvin is a member of the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and the Gay & Lesbian Community Center, according to a campaign bio.

As far as family, Galvin said he’s been dating someone for four years, but declined to identify him for this article. Galvin said his sexual orientation has “not really” yet factored into his campaign either in positive or negative ways.

Galvin said Miami-Dade County has three openly gay officials and his sexual orientation is widely known.

“It’s not like it’s a surprise or anything,” he said. “Are there people out there who are perhaps using it as a negative behind the scenes? I don’t know. None of that’s gotten back to me at this stage.”

Despite Galvin’s ambitions to serve in Congress, he faces a funding disparity among other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the election, according the most recent Federal Election Commission reports.

Rudolph Moise, a physician and president of the Comprehensive Health Center in North Miami, has accumulated the most money of any candidate in the field, raising more than $515,000. By comparison, Galvin reportedly raised about $56,000.

Still, Galvin said he knows his “pathway to victory” exists despite the challenge in financing.

“It’s a good-old-fashioned, shoe-leather, hitting-the-ground, get-your-voters-to-the-polls effort,” he said. “We’ll continue pushing it.”

Galvin attributed Moise’s lead in fundraising to “self-financing” of his campaign. Galvin said Moise has “a large burn rate” because he lent himself more than $200,000, but also spent more than $200,000 in the race.

“Just raising money — if you don’t do something of substance with it — doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing a [good] job with it,” Galvin said. “So, I think raising money in a campaign is — you got to look at [it] in a fashion that more than just, the bottom line, how much have you raised?”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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