August 26, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
Gay candidate in Fla. loses bid for Congress

Florida’s primaries on Tuesday brought unwelcome ends for two high-profile gay candidates seeking office.

Scott Galvin, a North Miami City Council member, lost his bid for the Democratic nomination to represent Florida’s 17th congressional district in the U.S. House. He was among nine Democratic candidates seeking the nomination in the primary to pursue a run for Congress. The victor was Frederica Wilson, a state senator who received almost 35 percent of the vote.

In comparison, Galvin received about 6 percent of the vote. The number of votes he received placed him eighth among the nine candidates.

Galvin said he lost because Wilson “decimated the field” with a strong campaign and because she had the support of the district.

“There was nobody even close to her,” he said. “She clearly ran a very good campaign that reflected her standing in the community.”

Denis Dison, spokesperson for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which endorsed Galvin in his bid, attributed the loss in part to the amount of money that opponents funneled into the race during its final weeks.

“It was one of those situations where you could see a path to victory if certain things fell the right way, and so that’s why he earned our endorsement,” Dison said. “Unfortunately, there was a ton of money dumped into the race in the last few weeks.”

Dison noted that Rudolph Moise, another Democratic candidate who lost the primary, put $1 million of own money into the race.

Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, said many things needed to happen for Galvin to have won the primary. She noted the vote would have had to split almost uniformly among the candidates, and Galvin would have needed an extraordinary turnout of supporters.

“I think he executed the things that were in his control, and the things that got in his way were outside of his field,” she said.

Another factor that Dison said contributed to Galvin’s loss was that he was the only white candidate among nine choices in a largely Haitian-American district.

No Republican candidate has filed to run in the general election in this Democratic-safe seat, so Wilson is now the presumptive U.S. House member in the district.

In another Florida race, Justin Flippen, a tourism project coordinator for the Fort Lauderdale area, lost the Democratic nomination to run for a state legislative seat representing a district in South Florida.

The incumbent Democratic legislator in the race, Gwyndolen Clarke-Reid, captured almost 56 percent of the vote, while Flippen took 44 percent.

Flippen said he pursued a run against Clarke-Reid because she wasn’t faithful to the principles of the Democratic Party as a lawmaker and didn’t back pro-LGBT legislation.

Dison speculated that Flippen’s loss was in part the result of the significant amount of money Clarke-Reid raised, some of which Dison said came from anti-gay contributors.

“She certainly had the money to compete,” Dison said. “She is the incumbent, so there was a bit of an advantage there.”

Although Flippen lost, Smith said he did a “fantastic job” in his campaign and noted he came within a small margin of victory: 334 votes. Additionally, Smith noted that Flippen’s entrance into the race prompted Clarke-Reid to become a co-sponsor of additional pro-LGBT bills in the state legislature.

Despite the losses by Galvin and Flippen, Smith said the election on the whole was “a terrific night” for pro-LGBT candidates and a negative one for anti-gay candidates.

In the race for the Republican nomination to become the next Florida governor, state Attorney General Bill McCollum, who supported efforts to keep adoption by gays illegal in Florida, lost his bid to former health-care executive Rick Scott.

Additionally, state Sen. Dan Gilbert, who championed anti-bullying legislation in the state legislature, won the Democratic nomination to become Florida’s next attorney general over state Sen. Dave Aronberg.

“We endorsed [Gilbert] when the other Democrat was considered the favorite,” Smith said. “And he absolutely just cleared the board.”

Gay candidates running in other states found success Tuesday. Jack Jackson, Jr., who’s gay and a member of the Navajo Nation, won a three-way race for a seat in the Arizona Senate. Steve Howard, who’s gay, won the Democratic nomination to become Vermont’s next lieutenant governor.

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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