LGBT voters could very well sway the 2014 gubernatorial election

By : Steve Blanchard
Comments: 5

When President Barack Obama faced Republican challenger Mitt Romney for the nation’s top elected office in 2012, polls showed the two in a dead-heat race. Pundits predicted the next president would be elected by a minority group, and eyed Latinos and African-Americans as the driving force behind whichever candidate won the election.

They were right, but exit polls showed another minority had a strong voice. LGBT voters overwhelmingly supported the incumbent Democratic president and could have very realistically helped push him into his second term.

Obama’s more than three-to-one edge in exit polls among the 5 percent of voters who identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual was more than enough to give him the ultimate advantage, according to a study by Gary J. Gates of the Williams Institute at the U.C.L.A.

Fast forward two years and that same LGBT voting power could determine the outcome of another neck-in-neck race—the race between Republican incumbent governor Rick Scott and Democratic challenger—and former governor—Charlie Crist. The two are vying for the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee on Election Day, Nov. 4.

Susan McGrath, president of the Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County, wholeheartedly believes that the LGBT vote is crucial this November.

“St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman will readily admit that there’s power behind the LGBT vote,” McGrath says. “When he entered the race for mayor he was in third place. He will give credit to the LGBT community support as the turning point for him in that election.”

McGrath says that pro-equality voters typically turn out at twice the ratio of the general voting population and said that candidates recognize that and actually court pro-equality voters and groups in election season.

“As for the governor’s race now, because it’s close, it’s becoming increasingly more negative in campaigning,” McGrath says. “Governor Scott has just said he is willing to put in another $22 million of his own money into messaging, which will undoubtedly be negative. And what negative messaging does is it suppresses the vote and people stay home.

“When people lean toward not voting, the votes of the LGBT community become even more important.”

According to the 2010 census, there are 65,000 same-sex households across Florida, and many of them are raising children. That’s a relatively small percentage compared to the 7.4 million households in the state. But if those same-sex households vote, it could sway the election one way or another.

“We need you to vote like your marriage depends on it,” says Stratton Pollitzer, chair of Equality Florida’s Action PAC. “For the first time, we have a candidate for governor who is with us on 100% of the issues. If elected, Charlie Crist has the opportunity to make a substantial difference in our lives.”

With marriage equality victories sweeping the country, Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage still stands, despite being ruled unconstitutional by five different judges. That’s because Gov. Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi continue to defend the ban.

“Electing a pro-equality governor isn’t enough,” Pollitzer says. “We need an Attorney General who will immediately drop the appeals of our marriage equality lawsuits, and we need a state legislature that can help the governor pass his pro-equality agenda.”

As governor in 2008, Crist supported the amendment to Florida’s Constitution banning the recognition of same-sex marriages. He has since publically apologized—in a cover story conducted by Watermark founder Tom Dyer—for supporting the measure and says he has evolved on the issue. In fact, his campaign released a letter to Rick Scott in August, asking the governor to stop fighting for the ban on same-sex marriages.

“Four years ago, a district court of appeals ruled Florida’s ban on gay and lesbian adoption unconstitutional,” Crist wrote in the letter. “When the ruling came down, I believed it was my job as Governor to exercise the authority vested in me by the people and our Constitution. The day the judge ruled, I declared Florida’s adoption ban over. Gay and lesbian parents began adopting the children they loved immediately. It is one of my proudest moments as an elected official.”

Sally Phillips, president of the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus and campaign manager for Hillsborough County Commission candidate Pat Kemp, admits that she initially supported Nan Rich as the democratic candidate for governor. But she now supports Crist and sees an opportunity to remove Scott and Bondi from office, which she believes should be the goal of all LGBT Floridians.

“That would excite me to no end to defeat Bondi,” Phillips says. “And in that mix, as a consequence of all of us voting, we could also put Crist in there. We could finally have a state we can be proud of and a state we’re proud to live in. It can happen as long as we get out and vote. If we vote, we’re going to win.”

Even if Bondi wins but Crist wins, he will have the power to halt the appeals process, Phillips adds.

To many, Crist is seen as a flip-flopper, and the former governor’s previous positions have prevented him from building the momentum he had hoped for. McGrath, however, hopes voters will look at where the Democratic candidate stands now, rather than where he stood six years ago.

“For me, I don’t care where you come from, I care where you are now,” McGrath explains of her support of Crist. “Even President Obama has had movements on his support of LGBT issues. He was kind of tepid when he started out and the more he learned and the more he thought about it, he evolved to become supportive.”

In a perfect world, McGrath would have liked to see Crist on the “right side of history” from the very beginning. But he has become more progressive and has said he will stop Florida’s fight to continue enforcing the state’s ban on marriage equality.

“Someone can have reservations about someone’s past,” McGrath explains. “But look at where they are in the here and now on issues. That’s a compelling argument to support Crist. We know where Scott is on the issues. He and Pam Bondi have a recent history and we know where they are right now. We’re at the tipping point for change, all we need is a little more support and we can bring that change to the people of Florida.”

Orlando HRC Steering Committee Political Co-Chair Tony Sanndonato is enthusiastic about the LGBT community’s voting power. He used the recent festivities of Come Out With Pride as a gauge of voter turnout among LGBTs.

“Last weekend we attended Orlando Pride and we saw hundreds of ‘LGBT for Charlie’ signs,” he says.”This is going to be a very close election. Every vote counts. HRC volunteers have been working in the Florida Democratic Party campaign offices calling voters on behalf of Charlie Crist for Governor. Charlie Crist supports marriage equality and would issue an Executive Order banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in state government. He also supports the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which is a statewide non-discrimination bill.”

But it’s not all about the statewide positions. LGBTs must vote in pro-equality representation at the local level, according to Phillips.

“Locally it will matter more to your daily life than on the state level,” Phillips says, adding that getting Pat Kemp on the Hillsborough Commission is just as important as keeping Terry Kemple, a long-time anti-gay activist, from getting on that county’s school board. “We just have to make sure the community votes. We can make the difference and we can have marriage equality come the first quarter of 2015 if we get Charlie Crist into office. He will stop the appeals, he said he would do that.”

Early voting began statewide on Oct. 23. Polls are open on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 4, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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  • Shane Pagano

    Charlie Crist continues to push his phony excuse that he left the Republican Party due to “racism and homophobia”. I feel it is my duty, as a self identified, gay, libertarian Republican, to offer a rebuttal against these outrageous and false claims made by Former Governor Crist, all in an attempt to gain votes, and bait and divide Floridians.

    Let’s see, where shall I begin?

    As an egotistical, career politician, Charlie Crist registered in three parties in three years. First he is a Conservative “Ronald Reagan” Republican who fought against gay marriage and gay adoption, then he was an Independent, and now, a self professed “Pro- Life” Democrat. Frankly, many of my gay Democrat friends silently find “compassionate” Charlie Crist despicably opportunistic, and untrustworthy. Many are still enraged over his refusal to debate a qualified, and loyal Democrat, Sen. Nan Rich, of Weston, who has a consistent record of progressive accomplishments while serving in the State Senate.

    Charlie Crist cites racism for leaving the GOP, really??

    Charlie Crist was defeated by a Hispanic Republican upstart, Marco Rubio, and the African American Democrat, Kendrick Meek, faced pressure from Crist, and his cronies, to drop out of the race. So much for showing respect to the first African American to run for a Senate seat in Florida. The bottom line is Crist couldn’t win a primary against Rubio, so he became an Independent. Then, he couldn’t win in a three way race as an Independent, so, he goes to work for the most prominent trial lawyer in the Southeast, John Morgan, and the re-invention of Charlie Crist to the Democratic Party begins.

    Homophobia? Please….

    Charlie Crist is the Governor and chief architect of Amendment 2, in 2008, which as we all know, defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Charlie Crist, as recently as the 2010 Senate campaign, said the following: “I support the traditional definition of marriage and I believe marriage is a sacred institution between one man and one woman” How soon some in the Democratic Party forget considering we all now have to live with this discriminatory gay marriage ban.

    I’d also like to add that in 2011, Lisa Keen, the former Editor in Chief of the “Washington Gay Blade”, and the CEO of Keen News Services, commissioned a Florida University study that determined South Florida LGBT voters led the nation in gay votes for the GOP in the 2010 midterm election. 48% voted GOP; 47% voted Democrat. Many of those voters voted for now Governor Rick Scott, and his then African American running mate, Jennifer Carroll. Additionally, in that very same election, LGBT voters in South Florida voted in large numbers for 3 triumphant Hispanic GOP representatives, and Allen West, an African American. Sounds like a pretty racially diverse Florida GOP to me.

    Let’s continue be honest, many LGBT voters do not trust Charlie Crist for the huge 4 billion budget deficit he left Florida with while he tried to skip town, and head to Washington, as a Senator, for another career politician pension.
    Charlie says he loves Florida…Well, if Charlie loved Florida so much, why didn’t he run for re-election as Florida Governor and help us recover from the economic meltdown?

    Moreover, in contrast, the policies of Gov. Rick Scott created a 1.2B budget surplus, and helped facilitate a dramatic economic turnaround with the nation’s largest drop in state unemployment– 600,000+ new jobs, with more to come.

    Thousands of tourists, and new residents, are returning to Florida every month, with consumer dollars, and pensions in hand, which helps gay owned businesses, gay employees, and gay home owners, regardless of party affiliation. And- thanks to Governor Scott’s exceptional business acumen, he has helped Florida become the 2nd most desirable state for businesses to grow and flourish in the USA. Gov. Scott, and his business- friendly policies, have caught the eye of Wall Street and Silicon valley investors, and they have their investment eyes upon Florida as an epicenter for Hispanic-owned high tech firms. Gov. Rick Scott’s policies will continue to bring new companies, and new consumers, and investors, back to our once devastated state economy. All Floridians, regardless of sex, race, gender, or sexual orientation will benefit from this.

    In closing, marriage equality will be coming to Florida by way of the courts. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with Governor Rick Scott 2x, and while he is steadfast in his personal support for traditional marriage (his right) he has assured me that he will respect the ruling of the courts. Fact is, Rick Scott doesn’t have a record of anti-gay legislation, Charlie Crist does. So, you tell me who is the Anti-Gay Governor?

    Time to wise up my friends on the left, Charlie Crist’s RECORD proves he’s no ally of the LGBT community.

  • Matthew V.Tsien

    The GLBT media has relied heavily on promoting false images of exaggerated racism, War on Women, and systematic homicidal homophobia suffocating nearly all Gays to death.

    The Gay Republicans challenged how Florida GLBT all-white-male editorial boards were promulgating malicious fiction to corral their voters into voting monolithically.

    In 2010, a Florida university study determined that the GOP carried the most populous LGBT precincts 48-R to 47-D. Translation: the GLBT vote is not always 3-1, nor nearly as monolithic as journalists reflexively fabricate.

    More than half the time the ratio is 2-1 as many GOP candidates get 35% even in losing races. In fact, Reagan, Nixon, Popa Bush and the Gingrich Revolution garnered over 40% of the GLBT vote of the day, according to CBS/NYT exit polling..

    It seems that journalistic integrity required that one should be equipped with the breadth and depth to not present such a slanted view; a slanted view that denies the depth of diversity in the GLBT voting population.

    Rick Scott got over 40% of the Gay vote in 2010, and is likely to get one-third or more next month. He is among the highest producing corporate recruiters among US Governors resulting in 645,000 new jobs, with another 175,000 in 2015.

    Gays need good careers to compliment their upcoming marriages. They should be smart and vote for Rick Scott.

  • MIMI PLANAS

    Charli Crist IS the reason we have the ban, excuse me if I do not come to his rescue based on a lie. I cannot imagine why anyone in the LGBT community would vote for him. If you would like to vote for words, then you are not voting for your well-being. I will not now nor have I ever been a one issue voter. Everything put forth to paint Scott and Bondi as evil villains is a COMPLETE fabrication. All because both of them are following the Constitution of Florida. I feel sad that people really believe all of this. Tomorrow I will proudly cast my vote for Rick Scott and I am a proud gay woman. For all the reasons I believe are important to me, the most important is my future here in Florida. I want Florida to thrive, as it is doing now! Not flounder like it did when Crist ran away from his failed policies….He is a flip flopper, a liar and a career politician whose only interest is Charlie…..RICK SCOTT FOR GOVERNOR

  • Randy Stephens

    I will be short and succinct ….. the real reason for the marriage ban is the republicans who had the amendment placed on the ballot. Quit trying to re-write history. we are not idiots. Geez,

  • Vote ADRIAN WYLLIE for Governor! He’s the only candidate who is going to get the government out of your relationship!