DES MOINES, Iowa — Polls in Iowa before the caucus on Monday show a tight race between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on the Republican side, but one GOP candidate further down the pack may get a boost from a gay Iowan supporter.
Richard Dedor, a 32-year-old Des Moines resident who works in marketing, said during an interview with Washington Blade on Saturday he intends to caucus for Chris Christie.
For Dedor, the biggest issue in the election is fiscal policy, an area in which Dedor said Christie stands out among other candidates — Democrat and Republican — because of the clarity of his proposals and their likelihood of actually happening.
“What I talk fiscal issues, I’m just talking our annual deficit and our growing debt,” Dedor said. “To me, that’s where everything stems from. And so, that’s how I landed on Gov. Christie. I felt like he put out a solid proposal, not only on just the general budget, but on entitlement reform. He wasn’t afraid to grab that third rail, he was more than willing to, because it needs it to be. And so, I was looking for a candidate who was willing to do the tough things, even if it hurts.”
Christie has made ambitious proposals to change entitlement programs, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Under Christie’s vision, Social Security would become an insurance policy under which wealthy Americans would forgo a check and the retirement age would be raised from 64 to 69. His plan would take effect in 2022.
Although Christie faces significant challenges in getting elected, including low poll numbers and overcoming Bridgegate, Dedor said he supports the candidate because he “says what he’s thinking, even if it’s not the politically correct thing to say.”
“It’s not as far as Trump goes with the politically incorrect things, but I think when Gov. Christie does it, he’s just being heartfelt, which I appreciate,” Dedor said. “When I look at a candidate, I want to feel like your heart is in it, that what you’re saying is actually what you feel when you sleep at night and it’s not just a political line. I think he does that.”
In September, Dedor married his spouse in Iowa, which in 2010 became one of the first states to legalize same-sex marriage. That wouldn’t have been permitted if Christie had his way because he opposes marriage equality.
The New Jersey governor vetoed legislation that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the Garden State and opposed the Supreme Court rulings against the Defense of Marriage Act and in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide.
When asked how he could support a candidate who opposes his right to marry, Dedor pointed to other actions Christie has undertaken in support of LGBT people, such as signing into law anti-bullying legislation and a prohibition on “ex-gay” conversion therapy for minors.
“I’ve never been a single-issue voter, and I do want a candidate who is willing to support equality for the LGBT community, but I also believe especially given where we are today with the Supreme Court this past summer, that it would take a massive amount of political capital…to overturn, to change where are today,” Dedor said.
It should be noted in addition to vetoing marriage equality, Christie has twice vetoed legislation that would have allowed people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates without undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
Dedor said he thinks Christie, who’s said businesses shouldn’t be able to discriminate against people, would sign into law a federal LGBT non-discrimination bill should one reach his desk.
“I think he’s done the things right below marriage to protect students, to protect kids, youth,” Dedor said. “Things that are helpful. And I think if it’s written in a way that doesn’t overreach and it just protects people from unlawful termination or treatment, that kind of thing, I think he would be hard pressed not to sign it.
Dedor is no stranger to LGBT activism. He’s president of the Iowa Log Cabin Republicans, but he said the local chapter is basically inactive and he can’t find members to join a conference call.
While the three Democratic candidates are strong on LGBT rights, Dedor said none of them makes the cut for him. The estimated $18 trillion pricetag on Bernard Sanders’ plans is unaffordable, there are trust issues with Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley is unelectable and too far left on the fiscal side, Dedor said.
Because Christie has languished in the polls (the candidate came in at 3 percent in the latest Iowa poll among Republicans), Dedor admitted Christie has no shot of winning the state, but said nonetheless he has a path forward to win the White House.
“To me, if he can find a way to place in the top four or five, maybe be the top finishing governor in New Hampshire, there’s a path to at least keep going forward,” Dedor said. “I think after New Hampshire, it’ll be down to four or five [candidates].”
The Iowa caucuses work differently for Republicans and Democrats. On the Republican side, voters go to one of nearly 900 caucus sites, where campaigns will send precinct captains (or possibly the candidates themselves) to deliver speeches to whip the votes. Afterwards, caucus-goers write their choice of candidate down on paper and submit it.
Dedor has never participated in an Iowa caucus before, but said he’ll speak out at his Des Moines caucus site in favor of Christie if no one else says anything.
“What I would say is, if we’re looking for someone who can bring people together and get things done, who approaches it from a pragmatic approach, Gov. Christie was a guy who was elected twice in the state of New Jersey, which is majority Democrats when you look at the total vote roll, which means he had to say something that resonated with people the first time and had to do something right with voters to get re-elected,” Dedor said. “That’s not an easy thing to do.”