Just What Was Brandon Straka #WalkingAway From?

Just What Was Brandon Straka #WalkingAway From?|Just What Was Brandon Straka #WalkingAway From?

The gay founder of the #WalkAway movement who posted a passionate video on YouTube in which he announced he was leaving the Democratic Party has only voted six times since 2004 and only one of those votes was cast in a primary race.

“And worst of all, the Democratic Party and the liberal media have embraced, affirmed, aided, and abetted this cult ideology,” said Brandon Straka, 42, said in a June 29, 2018, video that he posted on YouTube. “In an effort to gain voters and maintain power, the Democratic Party that I once loved has joined forces with the extremist left.

The six-minute statement mostly blames unnamed “social justice warriors” for his complaints, which are grab bag of general conservative complaints about the left. The complaint that the Democratic Party has embraced some of the sillier views of the far left would probably be rejected by most Democrats. His renunciation of the Democratic Party and his affiliation with the Republican Party have made him very popular in conservative circles.

In 2018 and into 2019, he gave interviews to multiple mainstream and right wing news outlets. This month, Straka spoke at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which is produced by the America Conservative Union and features leading conservative voices. Straka organized the #WalkAway March in Washington, DC, in October 2018. The movement is meant to encourage more people to leave the Democratic Party.

Straka’s professed love for the Democratic Party looks more like nominal interest in light of his voting record. He registered as a Democrat in 2004, according to city Board of Elections records. He voted in the 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2018 general elections and in the 2010 primary races. Straka told the CPAC audience that he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but Board of Elections data show he did not vote in the primary contest that year between Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders nor in the primary eight years earlier between Clinton and then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Nor did he vote in the four mayoral contests in the years since 2004.

Straka has not donated to any candidate or committee in any election cycle in any city race since 2001, according to the city’s Campaign Finance Board nor has he donated to any candidate or committee in any federal or state race since 2001, according to the state Board of Elections and the Federal Election Commission.

Straka changed his party affiliation to Republican in April 2018 and then again in September 2018. The second registration came after a left-leaning journalist contacted him and said that he was still registered as a Democrat, Straka told Gay City News. He declined to discuss his voting history or the two-month gap between his change in party affiliation and the video, saying, “I don’t like the direction this interview is going.”

Straka gained higher notoriety in the LGBTQ community in New York City after his group organized a March 28 town hall that was to occur at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. The town hall was to feature Straka, Blaire White, Rob Smith, and Mike Harlow who were identified as writers and political commentators. White is transgender and Smith and Harlow are gay. When activist groups, such as Rise and Resist and ACT UP, learned of the town hall the week of March 18, they formed a coalition that sent an open letter to the Center on March 22 asking that the town hall be canceled and for greater transparency and accountability in its bookings process. The Center cancelled the town hall on March 22.

“In recent days we have learned that certain of the panelists announced for this event have made repeated, well-documented past statements that violate our mission, values and the spirit of inclusiveness for all individuals and identities that is core to our work and who we are,” the Center said in a statement. “Our space is a place of safety and refuge for those most vulnerable among us, and we will do everything in our power to protect that. Permitting this event to proceed would make many of our community members feel unsafe and, among other things, interfere with their ability to participate in other Center programming.”

Straka told Gay City News that he learned of the cancellation in a tweet and that he had not heard from The Center.

“We are going to actively pursue any legal action we can,” Straka said. “They have deprived the LGBT community of being able to engage in an open dialogue considering alternative points of view to the typical leftist progressive agenda, which has taken the LGBT community hostage. The behavior that we’re seeing right now is precisely the reason why our event was so very necessary. The gay movement has been hijacked by a mob of liberal, leftist fascists.”

In 2011, the Center banned all groups that were organizing around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some of the banned groups had already been meeting at The Center. That led to two years of protests inside the Center by groups that oppose Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. The ban was lifted in 2013 only after author Sarah Schulman was barred because she proposed to read from her 2012 book “Israel/ Palestine and The Queer International.” That move prompted singularly loud and vigorous protests and led to an end to the ban.

Straka said he has attended roughly two dozen events at the Center and was never told his behavior violated any policy. To his knowledge, none of the other panelists ever attended an event there and violated a Center policy. This latest ban appears to result solely from comments that Straka and his colleagues made at events outside the Center.

“It had to be because we’ve never done an event at the Center,” Straka said.

When it initially rented the space, Straka’s group would have been required to pledge that it follow all Center policies at the event.

While the #WalkAway campaign has enjoyed a great deal of media attention, it is unclear if the movement has enjoyed financial success. Fundraising accounts on GoFundMe and classy.org have not hit their goals. On GoFundMe, at least, the money is not released unless the fundraiser makes the campaign’s goal. Separately, Straka solicits donations for the WalkAway Foundation, a 501(c)(3), or in checks payable to him on walkawaycampaign.com. Donors are instructed to send donations to an address on Lexington Avenue. That address is for a UPS store at Lexington Avenue and 116th Street.

The UPS store on Lexington Avenue and East 116th Street where Brandon Straka receives donations to his #WalkAway campaign.