In a statement of gay pride that was also a brilliant political stroke, Brian Ellner, a gay attorney and former elected community school board president running in the crowded September 13 Democratic Party primary for Manhattan borough president, released a television ad this week that he believes is the first time in city history that a gay candidate has gone on the air with his or her partner in a campaign commercial. Others said it might have been the first time it’s ever happened in the nation.
The ad at first takes an “emperor has no clothes” shot at George W. Bush, with the president’s head mounted on a naked torso, for his misplaced priorities for war over education, before showing Ellner approaching a group of people on a residential stoop and then putting his arm around a man in the group who he identifies to the camera as “my partner, Simon.”
Ellner and Simon Holloway, a fashion designer, share a home in Chelsea.
In a story that the Ellner campaign described as an exclusive, The New York Times reported that $250,000 had been spent on cable and broadcast airings of the commercial. Publicity from stories like that in The Times and on television news, of course, give the ad considerable additional—and free—media exposure.
In a campaign with nine candidates, two of them openly gay, it gives Ellner a chance to remind gay and lesbian voters, in a way undoubtedly calculated to win their hearts, that one of their own community could be the next borough president. In the wake of recent revelations about ties between Margarita Lopez, the city councilwoman who is the race’s other openly lesbian or gay candidate, and the Scientology Church—involving funding for a medical facility backed by the church and donations to Lopez’s campaign—the commercial may also be a way for Ellner to grab some of the vote that might otherwise have gone to the better-known councilwoman.