Naomi Gonzalez reflects on being gay-baited by Norma Chavez — but still doesn't come out

Posted on 10 May 2010 at 2:35pm

I’ve left phone messages and e-mails with Naomi Gonzalez’s campaign in the last few weeks trying to get an interview with the next representative for El Paso’s District 76 in the Texas House. If you’ll remember, Gonzalez was called a lesbian by incumbent Rep. Norma Chavez prior to their April runoff, which Gonzalez won.

Gonzalez has neither confirmed nor denied that she’s gay, so you can probably guess what my first question would be, and maybe that’s why she’d rather talk to The Texas Tribune. In the above video interview posted earlier today, the Tribune’s Brandi Grissom asks Gonzalez whether she thinks Chavez’s gay-baiting backfired, and what the response was like in El Paso. But Grissom never asks Gonzalez whether she is in fact a lesbian, and Gonzalez never says, unless you count the “three paychecks” comment in her first answer below. I’ve posted a transcript, as well as a little commentary, after the jump.

Grissom: “One of the most controversial things that came up during the campaign was this public forum, where Rep. Chavez called you a ‘gay lesbian woman’…

Gonzalez: … “Yes, I pull in three paychecks that way apparently.” [Laughter.]

Grissom: “So, that seemed to be kind of a big turning point in the race. Do you think if she hadn’t attacked you in that way, that you would have won in the end?”

Gonzalez: “I think we were still going to win in the end because we won in the primary, we were going strong into the runoff. Now, would the margin have been smaller? Probably. But I think ultimately our message of good government, and having wonderful volunteers, we were always meeting with constituents and voters and with neighborhood associations … That’s what really ultimately made the difference in the long run, is that we were making these inroads and relationships with community leaders that talked to other community leaders, that talked to friends and family. And that I think is ultimately what swung it. Now the comments that she made of course were unfortunate, and it was a turning point for her campaign, but ultimately I feel that we would have been victorious based on the message that we were sending, based on the grassroots effort that we had going into the runoff.”

Grissom: “What kind of feedback did you personally hear from folks in El Paso after that comment?”

Gonzalez: “Everyone felt that it was just out of place, it was not necessary, it was Norma acting out of desperation. It was very unanimous the support that I received after those calls were made, in the sense that people said this just underscores why this person does not need to be in office anymore, this has no place in our community, this has no place in our government, and it’s irrelevant, it’s a non-issue, we have bigger things to focus on.”

I agree with Gonzalez — her sexual orientation is a total non-issue. Which is precisely why she should address it once and for all by saying either that she is or she isn’t, and then try to move on. Because if you’re a gay public official and you’re not open about it, to me it just sends the message there’s something wrong with it.

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