October 26, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
Ros-Lehtinen, Hayworth among picks for pro-gay GOP PAC
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen supports marriage equality (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is among the new endorsements of the American Unity PAC (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A political action committee that aims to elect pro-LGBT Republicans to Congress this week announced that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) are among its final round of endorsements for candidates eligible for at least $2.25 million the group is spending on the 2012 election.

In a statement dated Oct. 24, the American Unity PAC announced its endorsement of Ros-Lehtinen and Hayworth as well as two candidates in Connecticut: U.S. House challenger Andrew Roraback and U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon. Based on numbers provided in the statement, the group is spending a total of $760,000 on these four congressional hopefuls.

The new endorsements mean the PAC is backing a total of eight candidates in the election. The announcement this week follows the PAC’s initial endorsements of Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) in June. Last week, the group announced it was allocating $530,000 to gay U.S. House candidate Richard Tisei in Massachusetts.

The statement highlights what the PAC is doing to help each of the candidates the group supports, including the four new endorsements.

For Ros-Lehtinen:

On October 24, AUPAC launched a $110,000 cable television campaign bolstering pro-freedom Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The ad highlights her commitment to the values of freedom, her leadership for small business and her efforts to fight wasteful spending and balance the budget. The ad also draws attention to Ros-Lehtinen’s strong support for seniors and firm stance defending our ally Israel. Ros-Lehtinen is the most pro-freedom Republican member of Congress and the first to stand up for the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian Americans.

Ros-Lehtinen — who has a transgender son, Rodrigo Lehtinen — is a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus. She’s the only Republican co-sponsor of legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and is a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Ros-Lehitnen was among five Republicans who voted for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in May 2010 even before the Pentagon report was issued on implementing open service. In July, she told the Washington Blade she’s a supporter of marriage equality.

For Hayworth:

On October 26, AUPAC plans to launch a $260,000 cable television advertising campaign protecting pro-freedom Congresswoman Nan Hayworth. The ad, “Home”, details Hayworth’s hard work protecting the Hudson Valley’s environment and natural beauty, which has earned her one of the best environmental records in her party. The ad also highlights Hayworth’s work to build bridges between the parties as a founder of the Common Ground Caucus. Hayworth is a leading Republican cosponsor of legislation to eliminate the tax penalty applied to domestic partner health benefits and has fought mean-spirited amendments aimed at denying same-sex couples any federal recognition.

Hayworth — who has a gay son, Will Hayworth — is a freshman member of Congress who’s also a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus. She hasn’t endorsed marriage equality, but is another ENDA co-sponsor and has voted against amendments brought to the House floor by Republicans to reaffirm the Defense of Marriage Act. Hayworth is facing a close race this election against gay Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney.

For the Connecticut candidates Roraback and McMahon:

On October 25, AUPAC plans to launch a $260,000 broadcast and cable television campaign in the 5th Congressional District drawing a distinction between the divisive partisanship of Elizabeth Esty and Chris Murphy and the independent problem-solving of Andrew Roraback and Linda McMahon. Both the House and Senate races are neck-and-neck in the polls. Roraback stood up for the freedom to marry as a state legislator, and McMahon recently became the country’s first credible pro-marriage Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.

Following a debate with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Chris Murphy, McMahon announced that she’s changed her position on DOMA and would vote to repeal the anti-gay law if she were elected and such a measure would come to the Senate floor.

The ads the PAC is funding are available to watch online here.

Jeff Cook, senior adviser to the American Unity PAC, said in a statement his group is endorsing these candidates because they’re among the “independent-minded, fiscally responsible and socially inclusive leaders” who should be elected to office.

“These pro-freedom Republicans are the best our party has to offer – principled fiscal conservatives who embrace the values of freedom and believe every American deserves a shot at the American dream,” Cook said. “All of these outstanding candidates face hyper-partisan opponents who offer little more than the same divisive politics that have gotten our country into such a mess in the first place.”

According to a June report in the New York Times, the initial $1 million that started American Unity PAC came from Republican businessperson Paul Singer, a prominent backer of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney as well as same-sex marriage.

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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