August 21, 2012 | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay Del. Senate candidate sets fundraising record
Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Delaware

Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers

A gay Delaware state Senate candidate on Friday announced he has raised more money than any other first-time political hopeful in a primary election campaign.

Rehoboth Beach Realtor Andy Staton, who would become the first openly LGBT person elected to the state legislature in Delaware if voters elect him to represent the new 6th Senate District in November, said his campaign has raised a record $105,697.39 — more than twice as much as any other candidate — as of Aug. 11. This figure includes the $83,000 he has raised since the beginning of the year.

Staton told the Blade that 70 percent of campaign contributions have been $100 or less.

“I am extraordinarily excited that we have had so many folks from our community stepping out to support the campaign. At the same time I’m humbled by the response,” he said. “People from across the district are responding to ideas. We’re presenting real ideas and real solutions so that we can deliver on solutions as we go forward. And I’m humbled that so many people have chosen to invest in our campaign.”

Governor Jack Markell, House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach,) Senate Majority Leader Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) and Rehoboth Beach Commissioners Patricia Coluzzi, Patrick Gossett and Mark Hunker are among the state and local officials who have endorsed Staton. The Victory Fund and the Barbara Gittings Delaware Stonewall Democrats have also backed his campaign.

“The overwhelming support for Andy’s campaign demonstrates that his message of standing up for Delaware families and helping create jobs is resonating with voters,” Chuck Wolfe, president of the Victory Fund, told the Blade. “This is a historic race with the potential of electing the first openly LGBT member of the Delaware legislature. Andy’s leadership is inspiring a lot of people to get involved in this campaign.”

Staton, whose 150 lbs. weight loss garnered national media coverage in Men’s Health and other media outlets, is on the CAMP Rehoboth Leadership Council. He sits on the Sussex Family YMCA’s Board of Governors and serves as an ambassador to the Beebe Medical Foundation that raises funds for an eponymous regional hospital in Lewes.

The triathlete and marathon runner told the Blade that the economy, increasing the number of doctors and other health care professionals in the area, expanding the district’s transportation network and building schools and additional infrastructure to accommodate the additional 100,000 people who are expected to live in Sussex County by 2040 are among his top priorities. Staton said he would also back a same-sex marriage bill if elected.

Markell signed a civil unions law in May 2011 which took effect on Jan. 1. The governor told the Huffington Post earlier this month that he expects Delaware lawmakers could debate marriage rights for same-sex couples as early as next year.

“Marriage equality certainly is very, very important to lots of folks in the community — there seems to be very, very support for that as we go forward,” said Staton. “There’s no doubt that I would in fact support a marriage equality bill.”

Staton will square off against former Dewey Beach Mayor Bob Frederick and former congressional candidate Mike Miller in the Democratic primary on Sept. 11. Lewes resident Ernie Lopez will face against Glen Urquhart, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2010, in the Republican primary.

Staton would campaign against either Lopez or Urquhart in the general election if he defeats Frederick and Miller.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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