A gay advocate who had a role in bringing marriage equality to New York has made official his bid to run for Congress — although no mention of his sexual orientation or his own same-sex marriage is found on his campaign material.
In an e-mail blast and an accompanying online video sent out Monday, Eldridge declares he’s running as a Democratic candidate for New York’s 19th congressional district.
“Right now, the voices of everyday New Yorkers are being drowned out by the special interests and party politics, causing gridlock in Washington,” Eldridge says in his video. “We need an independent voice who’ll fight for us, and that’s why I’m running for Congress.”
New York’s 19th congressional district, which comprises Columbia, Delaware, Greene counties in upstate New York, was redistricted in 2012. President Obama won the district by 6.2 percent in the 2012 election.
Should Eldridge secure the Democratic nomination, he’ll run against a Republican incumbent and Iraq war veteran Chris Gibson, who scored a “0” on the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent congressional scorecard.
An opponent of same-sex marriage, Gibson has voted in favor of affirming the Defense of Marriage Act on the House floor. However, Gibson said he supports civil unions and voted in favor of LGBT-inclusive reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
In addition to defeating Gibson, a win for Eldridge in the general election would also mean he’d be the youngest openly LGBT person to win a seat in Congress.
Eldridge, who worked with Freedom to Marry to help pass the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York in 2011, makes civil rights one of his priorities on the issues section of his campaign website under the heading “Fighting for Equal Protection Under the Law.”
The section obliquely hits on LGBT issues, saying of Eldridge, “He will work to ensure that every American receives equal protection under the law and that no one is fired from their job or denied housing because of who they are or who they love.”
But with an exception to a reference to his “family,” nothing in the campaign material from Eldridge indicates he’s gay or married to Facebook co-founder and owner of The New Republic Chris Hughes. In June 2012. Eldridge married Hughes, who’s net worth has been estimated by Forbes to be more than $600 million.
Eldridge hasn’t been keeping his marriage a secret before. The couple appeared on the cover of an edition of The Advocate that included feature profile touting their work for marriage equality. They also were profiled in The New York Times.
In comparison, Gibson’s campaign website prominently features a photo of his family, children and opposite-sex marriage to Mary Jo Gibson.
The Eldridge campaign didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment for this article or why any mention of Hughes is absent from the initial campaign material.
Eldridge’s candidacy for Congress has faced controversy even before it kicked off. After the New York Times initially profiled him and Hughes, another piece disclosed they had purchased a $2 million home overlooking a reservoir in Shokan, N.Y., just in January. That location would enable Eldridge to run in the 19th congressional district.
The couple purchased this home after they bought $5 million estate in Garrison, which lies in a different congressional district, just two years ago. However, the Times reported that the couple made the second purchase after the congressional district in that area became unattainable.
Asked by the Times about his move, Eldridge reportedly dismissed the suggestion it was motivated by politics and was quoted as saying, “The Hudson Valley is my home. It’s where I work. It’s where I got married.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee has already ran an attack ad against Eldridge, calling him “rich and out of touch.” It criticizes him for his allegiance to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and for alleging contributing $250,000 of his own money to elect a state senator in New York.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee defended Eldridge after NRCC ad was released, even though Eldridge has yet to receive the Democratic nomination in the race.
“While a lot of people talk about the needs to create jobs, Sean Eldridge has actually been doing it, investing in small businesses throughout the Hudson Valley and helping them to expand and create jobs,” said DCCC national spokeswoman Emily Bittner. “Sean also has a strong record promoting environmental protection and civil rights throughout New York. While some folks work tirelessly to protect tax breaks for billionaires and corporate special interests, Sean has been working to grow small businesses and fight for middle class families.”