By TIFFANY M. JOSLYN, president, Virginia Partisans
Tuesday, Nov. 8 is a critically important day in Virginia—it is Election Day. Every Election Day is important, but this Election Day bears special significance; not only is every seat of the state legislature up for grabs, but the fate of whose party will control the State Senate for years to come is at risk. Against a backdrop of conservative Republicans controlling both the governor’s mansion and the House of Delegates, maintaining Democratic control of the State Senate is absolutely essential for the future well-being of the Commonwealth. But, even more importantly, preserving the Democratic majority in the State Senate is necessary to protect every single LGBT person and their families in Virginia.
It is for this singular reason that I call on every Virginian who cares about equality to join me in voting for Sen. Janet Howell and her fellow Democrats tomorrow.
I would be remiss if I did not also address the shameful, and entirely manufactured, claims initiated by Sen. Howell’s opponent, Patrick Forrest; further exaggerated and mischaracterized by the Victory Fund and Log Cabin Republicans; and, sadly, reported as such without any semblance of fact checking by the media.
Now, let’s review the facts. In Sen. Howell, we have an established pro-equality elected official. She has always stood by the LGBT community in Virginia and on the side of advancing equality for all people, as proven by her voting record, her history of legislative sponsorships, and overall service to her constituents. Take a look at her own words on equality, articulated in her LGBT Democrats of Virginia PAC questionnaire, posted on her own website. She is not just a friend of the LGBT community; she is a champion for the LGBT community.
In her opponent, we have a typical conservative Republican. While he claims to support equality when it’s convenient to do so, among LGBT audiences, it is virtually impossible to find any actual, written evidence from his campaign as to where he stands on equality issues.
And while the Victory Fund proclaims Forrest is an “out and proud” candidate, it is only in his recent attacks against Sen. Howell that he quite suddenly mentions these matters in an unsavory last ditch effort to save his campaign.
To be clear, there was no “gay baiting” conducted by any member of the Howell campaign. One rogue individual, a local volunteer who utilized the joint Democratic operation as a conduit for her political participation, managed to associate herself with the good name of one of our strongest pro-equality advocates in the Virginia State Senate.
Moreover, this individual, while in an intoxicated state, was unknowingly recorded by a paid Forrest staffer, during a social event. The finer details of this context have been omitted by the fourth estate. And even if you assume that this individual was maliciously “gay-baiting” – she and everyone else involved has confirmed this one fact: She does not speak for the Howell campaign and has absolutely no knowledge of the tactics and strategies employed by the Howell campaign.
This comes as no surprise to anyone who knows Sen. Howell or her campaign. It is also of no surprise that these comments were isolated to this one individual, who has now been cut off from any and all involvement with these campaigns, and there is absolutely no evidence that Sen. Howell’s campaign was actively engaging in a “gay-baiting” strategy to suppress Republican turnout. These allegations are simply the fabrications of a fledging candidate, his failed campaign, and a variety of organizations outside Virginia seeking to increase their fundraising totals. It is as simple as that.
Now, the real controversy here may very well be the shenanigans of Sen. Howell’s opponent. This is where one can actually say “gay-baiting” is taking place. For it is only Forrest, and those supporting him, who has ever raised the issue of sexual orientation in this campaign. From the beginning this controversy was never really a controversy, it was a strategy to pull equality-minded voters away from an established pro-equality senator, and raise a few dollars in the meantime. The Log Cabin Republicans have asked when will the Democrats denounce the “gay-baiting” taking place, but I say the only conduct to denounce is that of Patrick Forrest and all those trying to pull the wool over Virginia’s LGBT families for their own personal gain.
And, the true tragedy is that the organizations that should be advancing equality in Virginia are undermining it at every turn. Rather than working to change the hearts and minds of fellow Republicans, both the D.C. and Virginia Log Cabin presidents are focused on smearing the reputation of a pro-equality Senator. The Victory Fund has not only fallen for this sham, but, even more disturbing, it has used its name and lists to attack a critical LGBT ally in our Commonwealth. All the while it fails to support openly gay candidates in parts of down-state Virginia. Helping to defeat the Democratic majority in the Virginia State Senate (held by just two seats) and give Republicans complete control of our state government is NOT working for the best interests of our community in Virginia.
Equality-minded voters know what is at stake tomorrow. The only vote for equality, and the only vote to protect our LGBT community, is a vote for Sen. Janet Howell and her Democratic colleagues. I am confident that the voters will make the right choice.