DES MOINES, Iowa — Despite the long odds Martin O’Malley faces in his presidential campaign, he’ll have support from at least one gay couple who intend to support him on the night of the Iowa caucuses.
Brad Hopkins, 31, an attorney, and Kevin Geiken, 34, a political consultant, plan on backing the former Maryland governor for president as their first choice at the caucus site for Drake University.
Hopkins said he supports O’Malley because among other presidential candidates he would be considered “contemporary” and he understands issues affecting the younger generation.
“He certainly has a very strong progressive record as governor of Maryland,” Hopkins said. “I mean, you just look at what’s done and you know that he’s going to accomplish things on the progressive agenda if elected president.”
Among the accomplishments cited by Hopkins were the former Maryland governor’s passage of the DREAM Act, marriage equality and abolition of the death penalty.
“He sees value in each person,” Hopkins said. “I think that’s expressed when he talks about immigration. He doesn’t refer to immigrants as undocumented immigrants or illegal aliens. He calls them new Americans, and I think he sees value in all people, no matter their race, their gender, their sexuality.”
For Geiken, support for O’Malley isn’t based on record or policy positions, but “a little more just sort of gut feeling.”
“He definitely has the experience that I like and the ability to govern, but it seems like he has a moral compass that always points in the direction of progress, and I appreciate that about him,” Geiken said.
Geiken said he doesn’t think Hillary Clinton or Bernard Sanders are bad candidates, but said O’Malley is “the best one that we have” among the three.
Hopkins said he has “legitimate concerns” about Clinton’s email controversy and whether “that will affect her candidacy if she’s the nominee.”
“It’s not a big issue in the Democratic nomination, but it will be, I think, when you throw Republicans and independents into the mix,” Hopkins said.
As for Sanders, Hopkins cited concerns about practicality, saying, “I appreciate everything he has to say. I just hear from him identifying the problems, but I’m not sure he has the solutions.”
“They’ve both been in Washington for decades now and I don’t think they understand entirely what happens outside of that circle,” Hopkins said.
It won’t be the first caucus for either Hopkins or Geiken. In 2008, Hopkins supported John Edwards while Geiken was working for then-candidate Barack Obama. This will be the seventh caucus for Geiken, who participates in the lower-profile caucuses during off-year elections.
Hopkins and Geiken have been together seven years, but are unmarried even though Iowa was an early marriage equality state. The couple said they haven’t yet married because they’re settling into their careers after long periods of school.
Geiken said O’Malley’s record on LGBT rights, which includes signing marriage equality into law, was a draw for him and credited the former governor with being “an active figure” in the marriage fight.
But Geiken contrasted O’Malley’s actions on LGBT issues with those of Clinton, whom he said “made what I view as some calculated decisions based on LGBT issues.”
“She’s good on the issues now,” Geiken said. “I think she had the opportunity to be a champion for these issues as first lady and a U.S. senator. I think that she did not take the high moral ground on some of those things.”
Geiken added the emphasis O’Malley has placed on transgender inclusion over the course of his campaign has been a real plus for him.
“We shouldn’t have to not talk about transgender issues because they’re not polling well,” Geiken said. “We should talk about it because I think the next policy movement is going to be on transgender issues.”
The Iowa caucuses work differently for Republicans and Democrats. On the Democratic side, caucus-goers at each of the more than 1,100 sites gather in sections designated for the candidates and are counted. If one candidate fails to secure at least 15 percent of voters in his corner, the supporters are released and must join another candidate. Delegates for the presidential candidates are then assigned based on the support for each candidate.
In the event O’Malley doesn’t secure at least 15 percent support at their caucus site, Geiken said he would move on to Hillary Clinton, but Hopkins said he’s unsure and may become “uncommitted.” (Fun fact: “Uncommitted” won the Iowa caucuses on the Democratic side in 1972 and 1976.)
When Hopkins made a remark about the Iowa caucuses just being the start of the road, Geiken responded, “You’re thinking if an indictment comes when it gets to the convention, our nominee is going to jail.” Geiken later clarified he doesn’t think the investigation against Clinton will reach that point.
Polls shows O’Malley is at the bottom of the pack in Iowa and, for that matter, the race for the presidency at the national level. The latest poll from the Des Moines Register on Saturday found Clinton leading Sanders by 45 to 42, followed by O’Malley at 3 percent.
Both Hopkins and Geiken said they don’t expect O’Malley to win Iowa. But Geiken predicted O’Malley would win some delegates and it would be considered a victory for himif he does better than expected.
“If we are being completely honest, his chances of getting into the White House are very slim,” Geiken said. “That doesn’t dissuade me from supporting him because I think as Democrats, we need to support our young leaders. For the sake of this article, as members of the LGBT community, we need to support those candidates who are talking about issues important to us and have taken principled stances on the issues that are important to us, and I think he’s done all of those things. I think he has our support because he’s been supporting us.”