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Rep. Brown explains why he thinks Buttigieg is the real deal

Maryland Dem says zero support among blacks due to unfamiliarity

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U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) endorsed Pete Buttigieg, citing his military experience. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Coming off the weekend campaigning for Pete Buttigieg in Iowa and acting as a surrogate at events in Detroit, Rep. Anthony Brown is telling voters the former South Bend mayor is the real deal.

In an interview Tuesday with the Washington Blade, Brown said he’s been paying attention for months to the presidential candidate — the first competitive openly gay presidential candidate — and was impressed with his performance in debates as well as his vision for foreign policy.

After meeting with him in November, Brown said he was impressed with what he saw, then went to Iowa as an observer to “kick the tires, look under the hood.”

“I liked what I saw,” Brown said. “I saw an audience that he was connecting to. There seemed to be good energy, good reception in his message.”

All that led to Brown’s endorsement of Buttigieg earlier this month. The Maryland Democrat is the first black member of Congress to support Buttigieg, which stands out because Buttigieg has been polling at zero percent among black voters in some polls.

Much of that lack of support has been attributed to Buttigieg’s actions as mayor, such as his response to a white South Bend police officer shooting a black man on his watch.

Brown said that issue is valid, but that the black community in South Bend has been fully behind Buttigieg and remains so in the presidential race.

“If you look at South Bend itself, and there you can look at the African-American civic leaders, elected leaders, business leaders who know him best, he’s got a tremendous amount of support among those African-American leaders,” Brown said.

Read the full interview below:

Washington Blade: Tell me a little bit about how you first met Pete Buttigieg and what your initial takeaways were from him.

Rep. Anthony Brown: The first time I met him was in September, and it was a brief five-minute encounter at the Congressional Black Caucus weekend conference gala. It was a big event and literally five minutes.

An immediate connection there. It’s been my common experience with someone who served in uniform. Although I always say “Beat Navy” because I’m an Army guy. I think the fact that he’s in the Navy and I’m in the Army, there’s just that sort of fraternal connection that we seem to have, so we connected well. It felt good, but again it was mostly just sort of small talk, and stuff like that.

Prior to that — that was in September — I actually started paying attention to him as early as July. In July, he gave a foreign policy, national security speech at Indiana University.

I didn’t see the speech. I wasn’t there. I read it with my military background and my work on the House Armed Services Committee. I knew that where the candidates are on foreign policy, national security would mean a lot to me. And I was very impressed by his precision, his vision, his priorities and stuff like that. So, he caught my attention.

And I saw watching him during the debates, his breadth of understanding, along all of the issues. He seemed very thoughtful and not rehearsed very comfortable, yet not overly confident. So I was impressed by his grasp of the issues, and the way that he was able to communicate thoughts and issues and ideas.

And then in November, I guess it was, we sat down for 30 minutes, and we had a real good conversation. Basically, his campaign had reached out to my office and we finally made it work.

And I had the opportunity to talk to him about more on national security. I asked about how the campaign was doing, his relationship with the African-American community, his record in South Bend and he was almost as impressive, well actually I would say he was just as impressive, in my thoughts on various issues as I was on his.

And then in December, I decided to spend a weekend on the campaign trail, sort of like kick the tires, look under the hood, see whether this guy was the real deal and I thought the best way to do it was to spend time with him in Iowa, and I did that the weekend after Christmas. And I basically went there to hear him, but my eyes were on the audience and I watched him in probably six or seven different large audiences, venues, town halls and the like.

And I liked what I saw. I saw an audience that he was connecting to. There seemed to be good energy, good reception in his message. And I came out of that weekend knowing that I was going to endorse him. So that’s kind of the chronology, if you will.

Blade: I can see that a lot went into your endorsement. Did you receive any blowback when you made that announcement?

Brown: No. I mean, no blowback. I mean, you know, a lot of people just started asking why, which is not uncommon, and I’ve endorsed candidates at every level on the ballot, first of all, because I’ve been in this business for 25 years, and you always get sort of like, ‘Hey, what’s that all about? What went into it? Did you have a relationship? What was the particular connection? And so, there was certainly that.

I think the fact that I was the first member of the Congressional Black Caucus to endorse him, that caught a lot of other people’s attention, but I wouldn’t say blowback. I would just say a lot of inquiries, right? “Hey, tell me more. How do you get there?” And it was more of that…Little negative reaction if you will to it. So, yeah, I think that’s been my experience in the last three weeks.

Blade: It’s no secret though that polls are showing Mayor Pete has virtually no support among black voters. Why is that?

Brown: Well, first of all, you got to set the table, which I’m sure you’re familiar with. The two candidates in this race who’ve run nationwide, the Vice President [Joseph Biden], and Sen. Sanders. Together, you have probably 70 percent in most polls of African-American support and then the other however many candidates are left — I don’t know, maybe 10 — split that, most of whom are in single digits.

And I really attribute the lack of support if you will, to lack of familiarity, right? The more that communities get to know Pete, and this is true whether it’s African-American, the Latino community, working-class community, rural community, Iowa, South Carolina, etc., the more that people get to know Pete Buttigieg — and once they get beyond how to properly pronounce his name — and are squarely considering not just who he is, as a person, but what are the differences he’s going to make in my life? In other words, where is he on issues? What are his priorities? What are his values?…People that know Pete Buttigieg are the people who support Pete Buttigieg.

And I think Iowa is a great example, right? A year ago today, he was probably registering near zero percentages as well in the polls, along with all the other campaigns. He spent a lot of time in Iowa, to strengthen his organization, enthusiasm that I saw when I was there, and his standing among the voters is measured in many polls. He’s done very well.

If you look at South Bend itself, and there you can look at the African-American civic leaders, elected leaders, business leaders who know him best, he’s got a tremendous amount of support among those African-American leaders.

Blade: But should voters be concerned about a South Bend white police officer shooting a black man and housing projects at the expense of low-income homes under Mayor Pete’s watch?

Brown: I think America is concerned. Many of us are when you see police community relations that results in a police-involved death.

We had one not only renowned across the country, but it caught the attention of the world, in Baltimore, right? With the Freddie Gray police death and the riots that ensued, and you and I can sort go through a long litany of cases that captured the attention of this country and the world, where injustices have occurred at the hands of police that have resulted in the loss of life or injury. That’s unacceptable. That’s true whether it’s in South Bend, Baltimore or anywhere else in the country.

And I think one of the things that I respect and appreciate about Pete Buttigieg is that he understands those issues and he has worked during his eight years as a mayor in South Bend to bring together a very diverse community, to make sure that he in a very collaborative way…that they’re making the kinds of adjustments and improvements that they need.

For example, he took the public safety board and reconstituted it. It’s now a majority-minority board. If you look at the complaints for excessive force by police in the last four years — I don’t have the exact number at my fingertips, but you can get it, or we can help you get it — those complaints have gone down significantly.

So it’s something that happens tragically and unfortunately in far too many of our cities around the country. And the question is what are we doing as a people, as a community? What do leaders do in response to that to take the appropriate measures?

I know that now, all 170 of the sworn officers of the South Bend Police Department have body cameras. That was not the case before Pete was mayor of South Bend. So through this experience and working with the community, [Buttigieg] has instituted quite a number of reforms or corrective action to improve community-police relations in South Bend.

Blade: But would you address the issue of his housing plan that many have said was at the expense of black-owned homes in South Bend?

Brown: And I think that’s another example of where you got to start broad and come into it. I served with a mayor when I was lieutenant governor of Maryland. Gov. Martin O’Malley, he was the mayor of Baltimore City before he was governor, and so, I got to see firsthand how you know someone can take that experience and translate that into higher office.

What I mean by that is the mayors are where the rubber hits the road, and you’ve got a lot of issues that have such urgency in the day-to-day lives of the people you serve, whether it’s public safety, which we’re talking about, public education, housing, jobs. You’re on the ground there and you feel it in your working there every day. … You develop a plan, and we’re going to revitalize housing and improve housing options in our city.

Some cities in America have done a good job at it. Some have done a really poor job at it. And so, the plan they executed, and the plan they had to figure out, “Hey, how much of this do we demolish, how much should we keep in place and we have revitalized etc.?” And the goal is to improve the quality of life in our communities.

And he had a number of challenges that he would deal with, right? Absentee landlords who were not investing money in the property. He also had people who wanted to stay. Some had the resources to, revitalize, some needed more assistance from the city, so he set down on the plan, and during the course of the program, making adjustments. The community said, “Hey, wait a second. It looks like you’re going to be taking down too many houses.” OK, let’s take a look. Let’s work together, let’s sit down together, make the adjustments we need.

That’s just a long way of saying that today while he didn’t get it perfect, and I don’t think there are many municipal programs that from planning and execution to completion, anyone will ever say are perfect, Pete made a positive contribution to improving housing options and housing affordability in South Bend. And did that by working with the community. That had some obstacles, they had some challenges, they had some things they didn’t foresee at the front end, but continually staying in conversation with the community, making the necessary adjustments.

As part of that, if you look at homelessness in South Bend, homelessness has declined in South Bend at rates faster than the drop in homelessness nationwide. So not perfect, but certainly something where, you can look at and say, “Hey, they made some real progress in the areas of housing in South Bend.”

Blade: In terms of Mayor Pete being the first major openly gay presidential candidate, what do you think his success means for where LGBTQ people are in the United States?

Brown: We’re in a time where over the last several years, we’ve seen a number of barriers being broken. And, you know, whether by gender, by race, ethnicity, and in this campaign a real opportunity when it comes to the LGBT community.

And we’re also living in a country where generations certainly younger than me — I’m 58, I feel young — but are living in a much more diverse community, country and culture.

I’ve got a 20-year-old, I got a 24-year-old, I got two 19-20 year olds. They’re growing up in an environment and culture of diversity and inclusion, unlike what I grew up in and certainly unlike what my parents grew up with. And it’s because there are people…whether it’s gender, race, ethnicity, orientation or identification, who have the courage to step out and to not let what has traditionally been a barrier, and a divide in this country.

But if you had the courage and the tenacity to pursue what every American should be able to pursue. So you’ve got a young Pete Buttigieg who wants to give this country the very best that he has to offer, his skills and talents, his ability and not let any sort of fabricated opticals prevent him from getting in the way.

And I believe that certainly his candidacy alone, but also when he’s elected president and sworn in in January of next year, that’s going to be a very positive evolution in our country for how we can and we continue to overcome those barriers and those glass ceilings.

Blade: You’ve been campaigning for Pete in Iowa and acting as a surrogate for him in Detroit, how would you gauge the reception for him in those places?

Brown: So, I spent, let’s see, probably three-and-a-half, almost four days in Iowa, two days, as I mentioned as an observer, two days as a participant. He’s got a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, and the organization is phenomenal. That’s what counts because in Iowa when you got the caucuses, it’s an organizational effort, right? And to champion that has the ability to organize and harness enthusiasm and convert that to large crowd size, that’s a good indication that you’re going to be able to do that on caucus night. Harness the energy, organize it and get that turned out on caucus night.

And when I was out there as an observer and I didn’t really identify myself to people, but I was engaging caucus-goers…I also had the opportunity to engage members of your colleagues in the media. One or two recognized me, but a lot of local media didn’t…And the feedback I got from that he’s drawing the largest crowd in Iowa. And off in counties where it’s been said, man, the last Democrat we saw was when John Edwards was out here campaigning, however many years ago that was? So, there’s a tremendous amount of enthusiasm.

I was in one meeting. It wasn’t called a town hall. It was the Urban Dreamers, a block party…that all candidates have been invited to, so it would have to be in late December, that’s what Pete came through. And about 75 people showed up at that one. Maybe a few more. And it was organized by a number of community groups including the NAACP. And that energy, and that sort of like positive affirmation in response to his message, very much resembles that energy and enthusiasm that I saw in places like Council Bluffs, which is on the far western end of Iowa where in a room where…I probably could have counted on both hands the number of African Americans in that room.

My point being that in both diverse audiences in Iowa to less diverse audiences in Iowa, I felt a lot of energy in both settings, and a lot of that vertical nod of the head like, “I like what I’m hearing. I like what this guy stands for. I like how he [speaks] with his faith, he frames up his values, and he’s got a vision for how together — because belonging is one of the themes of this campaign — together, we all belong, we all have responsibility, and we’re going to make this country a better place for everyone.” And just a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

Blade: You just mentioned faith, was that a factor in your decision to endorse Mayor Pete?

Brown: Look, I’m someone of an abiding faith. Pete and I were both born Catholic and I think he now attends the Episcopal Church…and I visit a lot of churches myself. It’s a way that I try to connect with my community and so, when I hear Pete talking about “when I was hungry, you fed me, when I was a foreigner in a strange land, you welcomed me in,” and how he ties those themes that are certainly rooted in the New Testament, and he weaves that into our responsibility, our obligations in the work that we do as public servants. That’s very appealing to me.

It’s not that Pete is quoting scripture although I understand he has…He weaves in the principles of faith and the tenets of Scripture that I’m very familiar with. So that certainly, it’s hard for me to say attribute one thing to why I decided to endorse, but certainly he incorporates faith. He doesn’t have fear and runs away from it. You often hear Pete say now no party can hijack religion, and that this country belongs to all Americans of any faith, every faith or no faith at all, right? He’s speaks to the importance of faith, and that’s attractive to me.

Blade: One other issue that’s important for our readers I wanted to ask you about is the transgender military ban, which I know you’ve been outspoken against. Do you expect Congress to overturn that this year?

Brown: As you know, in the Democratic-led House we got that provision in the National Defense Authorization Act and that’s one of the vehicles to do this because obviously the defense authorization act is a must-pass bill, and we were able to get a number of provisions in there that were contentious like the 12 days of paid parental leave, the “ban the box” for federal employment applications and things like that. We were not successful to repeal the transgender ban, much to my disappointment, because as you rightly point out, that’s a hot topic for me and I’ve been focused on that with laser-like precision.

Do I believe that a standalone bill, that we can pass that through both houses of the Congress and make it through the Senate to the president’s desk for signature? I’m not optimistic that we can do that. The question that I have not been asked, nor have I really considered, will the House leadership put up a standalone repeal bill, which I’m confident would pass the House, but I’m not confident that it would pass in the Senate.

And given that we’re in an election year, and the nature of the work in Congress — we like to focus primarily on policy and what makes good, we also know that the politics in an election year is electoral politics, play a role. So my sense is that I know I will work with my colleagues to get it back into the Defense Authorization Act this year. And I think we can be successful on that, but it may suffer the same fate that it did last year. And I do think that working through the NDAA is the best way to do it, but doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m any more optimistic.

We need a president — you don’t need to have a president of the LGBTQ community, right? You need you need a good Democratic president … And I love Pete. He’s my guy. But I’m proud to say that every one of our Democratic candidates as president would work with like-minded people in Congress, so that we can finally, once and for all, repeal the ban on transgender Americans serving in our military, codify it as law and let’s be done with it…But I’m excited about Pete’s candidacy and I’m very confident a Pete Buttigieg presidency would repeal the ban on transgender service members.

Blade: I guess I should also ask you a question about impeachment because it’s really a hot topic in the news right now. How confident are you about a fair trial in the Senate?

Brown: Not at all. At the very outset, Mitch McConnell said, “There’s no daylight between me and the White House.” And that’s the way he conducted himself from day one. And so this is a trial that’s going to be shaped — It’s going to be influenced more by Donald Trump’s desires than any pursuit of fairness, on behalf of the American people so I’m not confident whatsoever.

I’m not in front of the TV today. My understanding is that there is there is an effort to amend the rules so that at least the record from the House can be incorporated into the record of the Senate. That’s a modest step forward.

If the American public can’t hear from more witnesses and more evidence, particularly in light of what we have seen, and discovered since the House acted, I think that certainly would be a grave injustice to the American people, the American people deserve to hear from Bolton, Mulvaney and others, and certainly should have access to the document that has come to light that was not available to the House.

I’m not particularly confident that there will be a fair trial because I don’t think that Mitch McConnell, or the White House are particularly interested in a fair, open, transparent process.

Blade: And do you think President Trump will be removed from office?

Brown: I think the prerequisite for that is a fair trial because I think if senators are unwilling — this is a Republican-controlled Senate. If they’re unwilling to have a fair trial, then for me, it’s not a leap to conclude that the prejudged and pre-determined outcome will be in favor of the president.

Blade: My final question for you is the Iowa caucuses are going to be Feb. 3. Where will you be that night and what are your expectations?

Brown: I know I’ll be in Iowa leading up to the caucuses…so there’s a good chance that I’ll be there. But I know, certainly the weekend leading up to the contest, I’m in Iowa, because we want to have all hands on deck.

I am forecasting a very strong night for Pete Buttigieg, Team Pete. I’m predicting a very, very strong night.

Blade: Is he gonna win?

Brown: Absolutely.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length.

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Biden names civil rights veteran to U.S. Education Dept.

Catherine Lhamon’s portfolio will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct, racial discrimination

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Nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education Catherine Lhamon. (Photo public domain))

The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden has nominated Catherine Lhamon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

Lhamon currently serves as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for Racial Justice and Equity at the White House, where she manages the President’s equity policy portfolio. She is a former attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) and served as chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2017 to 2021.

She has also served as Legal Affairs Secretary to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Her portfolio at Education, where she previously served in the same position under former President Barack Obama, will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct and racial discrimination in the nation’s K-12 schools, universities and colleges. Lhamon was Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, to which President Obama nominated her and the Senate confirmed her in 2013.

“I am thrilled that President Biden is nominating Catherine Lhamon to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Catherine has devoted her career to ensuring equity is at the core of all her work,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement released by his office Thursday.

“She has a strong record of fighting for communities of color and underserved communities, whether as the current Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council, the former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, or as a civil rights educator at Georgetown University. We are thrilled to have Catherine serving as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and know she will continue to fight for fairness, equity, and justice for all of America’s students.”

Lhamon has also litigated civil rights cases at National Center for Youth Law, Public Counsel Law Center, and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.  Lhamon taught federal civil rights appeals at Georgetown University Law Center in the Appellate Litigation Program and clerked for the Honorable William A. Norris on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Catherine Lhamon is the right choice to lead the Department of Education’s civil rights division at such a critical time for the country and the agency. There is much work to do in order to roll back the harmful policies and legacies of Betsy DeVos, from her attacks on transgender students to her unconscionable revocation of discriminatory discipline guidance and rewrite of Title IX rules,” Adele Kimmel, Director of the Students’ Civil Rights Project at Public Justice told the Blade in an email.

“During her previous tenure in the same job, Catherine embraced equality, enforced Title IX and ensured students had an ally inside the federal government. She will do so again, and the Senate should move to quickly confirm her so she can begin the work of restoring the Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights and dignity of students and implementing the Biden Administration’s pledge to undo the damage that DeVos has done,” Kimmel added.

Born in Virginia and raised in California, Lhamon graduated from Amherst College and Yale Law School. Lhamon and her husband and two daughters are transitioning between California and Maryland.

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IDAHOBiT events to promote intersectionality, resilience, allyship

HRC president to participate in virtual panel in Canada

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(Photo courtesy of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia committee)

 

Intersectionality, resilience and allyship are among the themes that this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia events will highlight.

Dignity Network Canada and the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention on May 17 will hold a virtual panel that will feature Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, Canadian Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity Executive Director Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, Kaleidoscope Trust Executive Director Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, COC Nederland Executive Director Marie Ricardo and Rainbow Railroad Executive Director Kimahli Powell. The British High Commission and the Dutch Embassy in Canada have co-sponsored the event.

“We hope that this will be a really interesting and important conversation on intersectionality and transnational solidarity — and what it means for these leaders and their organizations during these times,” reads a description of the event.

The U.N. LGBTI Core Group on May 17 will host a virtual IDAHOBiT event that will focus on ways to develop an “inclusive and diverse post-pandemic world.” The World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American and Asian Development Banks host a similar IDAHOBiT commemoration.

“In order to heal from the economic, social, and public health dire impact the pandemic has had and still has, every plan of recovery must take into account a human-rights based, intersectional and gender responsive approach that addresses the specific needs of LGBTI persons in order not to leave them further behind,” reads a description of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group event.

Several Russian LGBTQ rights groups on May 17 will hold a “Vaccine for Acceptance” event that seeks to bolster allyship in the country.

Retired South Africa Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron on May 16 will moderate a virtual panel that will focus on religion and anti-LGBTQ violence.

Workplace Pride and the Dutch Embassy in Budapest on May 17 will host a symposium on LGBTQ-inclusive workplaces in Hungary. M.V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, on the same day will participate in a webinar the U.S. Embassy in Singapore is hosting with Oogachaga, a local LGBTQ advocacy group.

Haver Srbija, a Serbian NGO, on May 15-16 will hold Falafel, a film festival that seeks to build “bridges and promotes Israeli, Jewish and LGBTQI culture and communities” and highlight “various social issues in the context of the fight against prejudice, discrimination, anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia and encourages the audience to develop critical thinking on the issue of these topics.” Proud Lebanon is slated to hold a series of six webinars between May 17-22 that will focus on feminism, LGBTQ rights and other topics.

The National Center for Sexual Education in Cuba will hold a series of virtual forums and other events through the month to commemorate IDAHOBiT.

CENESEX Director Mariela Castro, whose father is former Cuban President Raúl Castro, during a May 4 press conference in Havana said the IDAHOBiT events are part of the process of amending the country’s family code to make it more equitable for LGBTQ Cubans. Mariela Castro said a bill to amend it will be introduced in the Cuban Parliament in July.

“I was able to appreciate that the majority of the population … is in favor of recognizing the rights of LGBTI+ people and especially the rights in the family sphere that include the possibility, the option, of marriage,” said Mariela Castro during the press conference, according to Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba.

IDAHOBiT commemorates the World Health Organization’s 1990 decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

This year’s events will take place against the backdrop of a pandemic that continues to exacerbate existing inequalities for LGBTQ people and other vulnerable groups around the world.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in dozens of countries. Violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation remains rampant in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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Mixed reviews from transgender Republicans on Caitlyn Jenner’s run

Remarks on kids in sport a sore point among LGBTQ advocacy groups

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Caitlyn Jenner was quickly repudiated by LGBTQ advocates after she entered California’s recall election as a gubernatorial candidate — and her fellow transgender Republicans are mixed over whether or not to back her up.

Transgender Republicans are few in number, but some are in high-profile positions and have been working with their party to change its approach and drop its attacks on transgender people, whether it be in the military, public bathrooms, or school sports.

Jordan Evans, a Charlton, Mass.-based transgender Republican who unsuccessfully last year ran to become a Massachusetts Republican State Committee Woman, told the Washington Blade she had high hopes for Jenner as a fellow transgender candidate, but they were quickly dashed after her campaign launched.

“My feelings changed quickly after Caitlyn made it clear that she was less interested in using this opportunity to present the Republican Party and conservative movements with an accessible and high-profile introduction to the trans community and simply wanted to be a trans woman who espoused the same destructive approaches that we just so happen to be seeing all over the country,” Evans said.

Evans said the high hopes she had were based on the transgender advocacy she said Jenner was doing behind the scenes and the potential for two prominent LGBTQ Republicans to run for governor in California. After all, Jenner may soon be joined in the race by Richard Grenell, who was U.S. ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence before becoming the face of LGBTQ outreach for Trump’s failed re-election.

But Jenner’s approach to the gubernatorial recall in California, Evans said, is “putting trans youth at risk for a campaign that isn’t even transformative for Republicans during this volatile time.”

“Even her current messaging is superficial and does nothing to help dispel claims that she’s unqualified,” Evans said. “The only positive thing that I’ve seen come from this is conservative mainstream media using her correct pronouns, but that is not worth the damage that she’s inflicting.”

Much of the disappointment over Jenner’s campaign is the result of her essentially throwing transgender kids under the bus as part of her campaign at a time when state legislatures are advancing legislation against them, including the bills that would essentially bar transgender girls from participating in school sports.

Jenner, declining to push back on these measures and assert transgender kids have a place in sports, instead essentially endorsed the bills shortly after she announced her candidacy.

“If you’re born as a biological boy, you shouldn’t be allowed to compete in girls’ sports,” Jenner told TMZ, which asked her about the hot-button issue during a Sunday morning coffee run.

Jenner dug deeper into MAGA-world at the expense of solidarity with the transgender community. Last week, Jenner retweeted Jenna Ellis, who has a notoriously anti-LGBTQ background and was criticized just last year for refusing to use the personal pronouns of Rachel Levine, who’s now assistant secretary of health and the first openly transgender presidential appointee to win Senate confirmation.

Jennifer Williams, a New Jersey-based transgender Republican who unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the New Jersey General Assembly last year, said via email Jenner “did much good for several years by educating millions of people around the world about transgender folks,” but won’t countenance the candidate’s remarks on transgender kids in sports.

“In regard to her current run for California governor, her recent comments regarding transgender youth playing sports are confusing,” Williams said. “Just last year, she said that she supported transgender female athletes. Caitlyn should consult with tennis great Billie Jean King, soccer star Megan Rapinoe or WNBA legend Candace Parker on the subject of transgender athletes in women’s sports, as they are very well versed on the matter.”

At a time when state legislatures are pushing through legislation targeting transgender youth, restricting their access to sports and transition-related care, Jenner’s refusal to repudiate those measures has become a focal point for opposition to her candidacy from LGBTQ advocacy groups, who say she’s “out of touch” (although none were supporting her even before she made those comments).

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which supports LGBTQ political candidates and public officials, has signaled it wants nothing to do with Jenner.

Sean Meloy, vice president of political programs for LGBTQ Victory Fund, said Jenner hasn’t applied for an endorsement from the Victory Fund “and she shouldn’t bother to.”

“Her opposition to full trans inclusion – particularly for trans kids in sports – makes her ineligible for the endorsement,” Meloy said. “There are many great trans candidates running this cycle who are champions for equality.”

To be sure, Jenner used her celebrity status as a former reality TV star and Olympic champion on behalf of transgender lobbyists, urging donations to groups like the National Center for Transgender Equality and going to Capitol Hill to lobby Republicans on transgender issues. Jenner has also given money for transgender kids to attend college, giving transgender advocate Blossom Brown a check for $20,000 on “The Ellen Show” in 2015.

Blaire White, a transgender conservative and YouTube personality, drew on these examples of Jenner helping transgender youth in a video earlier this month and said the two once had dinner together, but wasn’t yet ready to make a endorsement.

“I will say that until she lays out all of her policy positions and until she’s more on record in long form really talking about what she wants to do for the state of California, I can’t say for sure I would vote for her and would not vote for her,” White concluded in the video. “What I can say is: I’m interested. And also, being under Gavin Newson’s governorship, I would literally vote for a triple-amputee frog over Gavin Newsom, so she already has that going for her.”

Jenner’s campaign couldn’t be reached for comment for this article on the repudiation of her campaign from LGBTQ advocacy groups.

Gina Roberts, who’s the first transgender Republican elected to public office in California and a member of the San Diego GOP Central Committee, said she’s neutral for the time being as an elected Republican Party leader, but nonetheless had good things to say about Jenner’s candidacy.

“I think it’s awesome,” Roberts said. “It’s kind of indicative of how cool the Republican Party in California is because nobody really cares or it makes any difference. I mean, I was the first elected GOP transgender person in California and I think we’re ready for No. 2.”

Asked whether Jenner’s comments about allowing transgender kids in sports was troubling, Roberts said that wasn’t the case because she has her own reservations.

“I have pretty much the same opinion because … there’s so many nuances in that,” Roberts said. “If somebody transitions after they’ve gone through puberty, there is a big difference, especially in high school. If they transition beforehand, it’s not a big deal.”

A gun enthusiast and supporter of gun owner’s rights, Roberts said she competes in women’s events in shooting sports, but there’s a difference because she doesn’t “really have any advantages all those young, small ladies can pull a lot faster than I do and shoot faster than I do.”

Roberts concluded she’ll personally make a decision about whom she’ll support in the California recall election after Grenell announces whether or not he’ll enter the race, but can’t say anything until the San Diego GOP Central Committee issues an endorsement.

“He’s a good friend of mine, too,” Roberts said. “I know both of them. I think they’d both be certainly better than Gavin Newsom, I have to stay neutral until the county party decides who they’re going to endorse. I will support somebody or another in the endorsement process, but I can’t publicly announce it.”

Although LGBTQ groups want nothing to do with her campaign, Jenner’s approach has garnered the attention of prominent conservatives, who are taking her seriously as a candidate. One of Jenner’s first interviews was on Fox News’ Sean Hannity, a Trump ally with considerable sway among his viewers. Hannity was able to find common ground with Jenner, including agreement on seeing California wildfires as a problem with forest management as opposed to climate change.

Kayleigh McEnany, who served as White House press secretary in Trump’s final year in the White House and defended in the media his efforts to challenge his 2020 election loss in court, signaled her openness to Jenner’s candidacy after the Hannity interview.

“I really enjoyed watching @Caitlyn_Jenner’s interview with @seanhannity,” McEnany tweeted. “I found Caitlyn to be well-informed, sincere, and laser-focused on undoing the socialist, radical, a-scientific policies of Biden & the left. Very good.”

In theory, that support combined with Jenner’s visibility might be enough to propel Jenner to victory. In the recall election, California will answer two questions, whether California Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled, and if so, which candidate should replace him. The contender with the plurality of votes would win the election, even if that’s less than a majority vote, and become the next governor. There isn’t a run-off if no candidate fails to obtain a majority.

With Jenner’s name recognition as a celebrity, that achievement could be in her reach. After all, Arnold Schwarzenegger won the 2004 recall election in California as a Republican based on his celebrity status, and ended up becoming a popular governor.

But the modest inroads Jenner has made with the acceptance of conservatives and potential to win isn’t enough for other transgender Republicans.

Evans, for example, said Jenner’s candidacy is not only a disappointment, but threatening the potential candidacies of transgender hopefuls in the future.

“It’s difficult to be in electoral politics, and that’s even more true when you’re a member of a marginalized community,” Evans said. “Caitlyn’s behavior is making it even more challenging for the trans community to be visible in a field where we desperately need to be seen. She’s casting a tall shadow on our ability to have a voice and is giving credibility to lawmakers and local leaders simply unwilling to view us with decency and respect.”

Williams said Jenner should avoid talking about transgender issues over the course of her gubernatorial run “and instead focus on the hard, critical policy issues facing California.”

“It is a state in crisis and she has to run a very serious campaign and not rely on her celebrity or LGBTQ status to win over voters’ hearts and minds — just like all other LGBTQ candidates around the country need to do when they run for public office,” Williams said.

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