August 19, 2010 at 3:15 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Fla. primary could yield gay milestones

Primary elections set for Tuesday could yield two milestones if Florida voters elect a gay candidate to Congress and another man to become the first openly gay member of the state’s legislature.

Scott Galvin, a North Miami City Council member, is seeking to represent Florida’s 17th congressional district in Congress. Galvin told the Blade last week he’s “feeling very excited” about his prospects.

“We had a wonderful debate last night that went very well and we had a nice article in the Miami Herald yesterday talking about our chances in being able in win,” he said. “We’re just invigorated out knocking on doors and raising money.”

Galvin is among nine Democratic candidates seeking the nomination in next week’s primary. No Republican candidate has filed to run in the general election in this Democratic-safe seat, so the winner of the primary is the presumptive U.S. House member in the district.

Galvin’s campaign achieved additional notoriety last month when vandals defaced several of his campaign signs in North Miami by spray-painting the word “fag” on them. Galvin said the incident had a mixed impact on his campaign.

“There were those who found out that I was gay for the first time and weren’t aware and there were those who obviously didn’t care and were actually motivated more by it,” Galvin said.

Galvin said his campaign has seen further acts of vandalism, where campaign materials were vandalized, but none of those acts held such a clear anti-gay bias.

Still, Galvin said he’s feeling optimistic about his campaign and noted the difference between the first-place candidate to the fifth-place candidate could be “as much as two to three percentage points.”

Meanwhile, Justin Flippen, a tourism project coordinator for the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. area, is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for a state legislative seat representing a district in South Florida.

Flippen, who’s vice mayor of the city of Wilton Manors, said he’s interested in pursuing the seat to bring more effective Democratic representation to the Florida state capital.

“We need a strong Democratic representative from District 92 in Tallahassee that represents all of the communities of the district, including the LGBT community most particularly,” Flippen said.

He’s running against incumbent Democratic legislator Gwyndolen Clarke-Reid for the party nomination, whom he said has “not at all” been faithful to Democratic principles in her seat as a state representative.

Among Clarke-Reid’s votes that Flippen criticizes are her votes for school vouchers and utility rate hikes for power companies. Flippen also took issue with Clarke-Reid’s lack of sponsorship of any state pro-LGBT legislation and her opposition to same-sex marriage, which he noted isn’t consistent with the national Democratic Party platform.

“I was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2008,” Flippen said. “I voted on the platform. I think we said that everyone’s included in the fabric of American society, particularly the LGBT community.”

The Clarke-Reed campaign didn’t respond to the Blade’s request to comment for this article.

Flippen said Clarke-Reed’s lack of support for pro-LGBT bills isn’t representative of her district because so many LGBT people live there. He estimated that the same-sex couple households comprise about one-third of the district’s population.

“You would think that the district — with such a large proportion of GLBT same-sex households — would have a state representative that is very much in step with the GLBT community,” he said. “In fact, we do not have that. That will be changed in this election cycle.”

Noting that he would be the first openly gay person elected to the Florida state legislature, Flippen said he thinks his voice will be important when LGBT issues come before lawmakers.

“There needs to be a voice in the state legislature that stands for a community that has never had a voice before,” he said. “I will be there at every opportunity to stand up for equality and the equal rights for everyone, which we’ve not seen with great fervor in the state legislature.”

Flippen said his chances of winning the seat in November are “very good” and that he’s received important endorsements, including from Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl.

“I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think we had a better than good chance,” he said. “I’m pleased that we have walked over 60 percent of this entire district by foot and met with more than 5,000 voters in over 2,500 households.”

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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