Leading Democrats devote staff to efforts in gay community; national LGBT organizations also sending primary workers to state
MANCHESTER, N.H. It’s five days until the vote, and snow and bone-chilling winds whip across the first state to hold presidential primaries. Unlike past years where the signs for presidential candidates outnumbered the residents, there are few visible signs of support.
Still, there is a sense of suppressed excitement building as primary day approaches.
New Hampshire is ready to face the nation as the first state to cast its primary votes for the next president of the United States. Hundreds of paid and volunteer staff members are filling the candidates’ campaign offices making phone calls, plotting areas to canvas, licking envelopes and planning press conferences and rallies in the days leading up to the Jan. 8 primary.
For the LGBT community, these days are filled with a renewed sense of hope and guarded optimism.
The leading Democratic candidates have a small but efficient section of staff members whose job is to handle requests for information regarding their candidates’ view on issues of interest to the LGBT community. These staff members, both paid and volunteer, are working tirelessly to insure that the needs of the LGBT community are not ignored.
In fact, these staff members are making a concerted effort to get the LGBT community involved in the campaign process. Calls are going out to local businesses including bars, restaurants, book stores and service-oriented concerns in an effort to reach out to as many voters as possible. Candidates’ flyers, bumper stickers, buttons and brochures are piled high in these establishments, while rallies and public demonstrations of support are being planned.
Busloads of supporters are arriving daily from around the country to work for their candidate and to get local LGBT voters involved.
National organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and Stonewall Democrats are providing financial and logistical support to the national campaign staff members in New Hampshire. These groups are using their clout to encourage possibly reluctant LGBT voters to make a difference.
One way that the candidates’ staff are trying to reach out to the LGBT community is through small, intimate gatherings and fundraisers held in private homes. One such gathering took place in the home of Jim Webber and his partner, David Preece.
Webber and Preece, recent transplants from Los Angeles, were concerned about the rising tide of homophobia and wanted to do something to stop it. Their home, decorated for Christmas with “Hillary for President” signs placed in strategic areas, was the setting for a recent rally.
Based her record as the previous first lady and in the Senate, Webber and Preece believe that the New York senator is the best candidate for president and that she will promote GLBT concerns. While their support is low-key, they still speak passionately about their concerns.
The crowd that gathered included members of the Manchester, N.H. LGBT community, openly gay state representatives including David Pierce, and senior members of the “Hillary for President” campaign staff.
Guest speaker was Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., an openly gay member of Congress and chairman of the powerful Finance Committee. Frank was funny and passionate about his support of Clinton.
“We have an important role to play in this election. We in the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender community need to work on changing the atmosphere of hate and fear that is sweeping this country,” Frank said. “We need to improve the lives of all GLBT people and by working to elect Hillary Clinton for president, we can do it.”
Frank said that Clinton “is the person who can make this happen. In the interest of full disclosure, my sister works for the National Democratic Committee, but that has not influenced my opinion. I really believe that Hillary Clinton is the best person for this job and I want to see her elected.”
Frank went on to discuss the other candidates from both parties, reserving his most scathing comment for former Massachussets Gov. Mitt Romney whom Frank referred to as “synthetic.”
Frank did say he believes that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is the Republican candidate that may pose the biggest problem to the Democratic nominee if he were to win the Republican nomination.
Pierce emphasized the importance of getting members of the LGBT community to vote in this primary.
“We need to change the course that this country is taking. The current administration has failed; indeed, they have messed up, and we need to elect someone to the presidency that can clean up this mess. I believe that that person is Hillary Clinton,” Pierce said.
Rallies are planned for the next few days, including a rally outside of the debate site on Saturday, Jan. 5, and a star-studded program featuring Hollywood celebrities on Sunday, Jan. 6.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 4, 2008