March 31, 2015 at 8:00 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay former Ehrlich aide considering run for Mikulski’s Senate seat

Chrysovalantis Kefalas, gay news, Washington Blade

Chrysovalantis Kefalas, a one-time legal counsel to former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich, is considering a run to fill the seat that U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) will vacate upon her retirement. (Photo courtesy of Chrysovalantis Kefalas)

A gay Republican who was former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s legal counsel has announced he is considering a run for U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)’s seat once her term expires next year.

Chrysovalantis Kefalas told the Washington Blade on Monday during a telephone interview as he discussed his decision to consider a run for the U.S. Senate that he feels “the same old ways, the same old politicians aren’t the best way to restore hope again.”

Kefalas, who is the son of Greek immigrants, conceded there are “a number of headwinds” he would face if he were to formally declare his candidacy. These include the fact that he has never run for public office and lacks a base of donors and support that Congressman Andy Harris and other potential rivals in the 2016 Republican primary may have.

“There are a number of things that I need to prove,” Kefalas told the Blade, noting he expects to make a formal announcement about his candidacy in the coming months. “This exploratory process I’m undertaking [is] to see whether the donors and the voters would be there if I run. And once I feel like that both will be in place than that would trigger whether I get into this contest.”

Election would be ‘game-changer’

Kefalas, 35, came out to his family and friends in 2010. He publicly discussed his sexual orientation for the first time the following year when he testified in support of a same-sex marriage bill that was before a Maryland Senate subcommittee.

Kefalas would become the first openly gay Republican elected to either house of Congress if he were to win the 2016 general election.

“It would be a game-changer,” Kefalas told the Blade.

Kefalas further noted the impact he feels the openly gay members of the Maryland General Assembly had in securing passage of the state’s same-sex marriage bill in 2012 and ensuring it passed during the subsequent referendum on it.

“To know someone is to understand them,” said Kefalas in response to the Blade’s question about the history he would make if voters elected him to the U.S. Senate. “It would go a long way in shaping where Republicans are on the issue of equal rights for all if a member of their party is a colleague like me.”

“It will mean a lot for the party if there is a Republican who is willing to be what I think is a consistent conservative in the original way: Economic opportunity, limited government, personal freedom, equal rights,” he added. “If there’s a Republican in the U.S. Senate who’s fighting for those ideals, I think that also is a game-changer in where this Republican Party can take this nation.”

Kefalas told the Blade he would “champion” the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and other LGBT-specific measures if elected to the U.S. Senate. He also spoke out against Indiana’s controversial religious freedom law that critics contend allows business owners to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

“Clearly this legislation is motivated by animus that seeks to divide and seeks to hurt people,” said Kefalas.

Kefalas said Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has “done a great job” during his first two months as governor.

The former Ehrlich counsel conceded Hogan’s decision to appoint Blair Lee, a Montgomery County Democrat, to his transition team in spite of his anti-gay comments came as a surprise. Kefalas nevertheless applauded the governor for allowing a regulation banning state Medicaid providers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity that was approved in the final months of former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration to take effect.

Hogan initially did not include gender identity in his first executive order that outlined ethics standards for executive branch employees. He subsequently reissued the mandate with the transgender-specific language after Equality Maryland and other LGBT advocacy groups criticized him.

Kefalas told the Blade that Hogan was “one of the first people to support him” when he came out.

“I know Larry doesn’t stand for discrimination,” said Kefalas. “He stands for equality for everyone.”

Michael Estève, chapter leader of the Log Cabin Republicans of Maryland, on Monday welcomed Kefalas’ decision to consider a run for Mikulski’s seat.

“As Chrys continues to consider his options moving forward, I am proud to count him among the early pioneers of LGBT equality in the Maryland Republican Party,” said Estève. “[I] look forward to seeing many more LGBT and allied Republicans step forward to lead in elections to come.”

Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, told the Blade he feels “it’s too early in the race to play any favorites.”

“You can be sure that Log Cabin Republicans national will be working with Log Cabin Republicans of Maryland to connect with all Republicans running for this winnable seat in the Senate,” he added.

Kefalas’ announcement comes less than a month after Mikulski announced her retirement from the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.) have already formally announced their candidacies to fill the long-time incumbent’s seat. The Baltimore Sun earlier this month reported that former state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) is also considering a run to succeed Mikulski.

O’Malley — a likely 2016 presidential candidate — earlier this month announced he will not run for the U.S. Senate.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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