Primary Day: Gay City News Endorsements

Gifford Miller for Mayor

The four Democrats running to challenge Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg are united in their full-throated support for the major political goals of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community—they oppose the mayor’s appeal of February’s pro-gay marriage ruling and they support two measures Bloomberg is blocking: a law guaranteeing that contractors doing business with the city treat domestic partners and spouses of their employees equally and a measure providing anti-bullying protections in public schools.

It’s great to have good choices, but let’s make no mistake about the tough battle ahead against a self-financed, billionaire incumbent candidate. The winner of the Democratic primary faces an uphill battle and the party must field its strongest candidate.

Gifford Miller is the best situated Democrat to wage this battle not only because his service on the City Council—the past four years as speaker—has equipped him to challenge the mayor in very specific detail concerning city governance, but also because he offers the LGBT community an unparalleled record of delivery on the issues that matter.

As speaker, Miller has consistently been a leader on LGBT questions, successfully leading the Council to override the mayor’s veto on both the contractor equal benefits measure and the school bullying law. In the late winter of 2004, when New Paltz Mayor Jason West electrified New York State by solemnizing gay marriages without licenses, Miller led a City Hall rally arguing that the city clerk already has statutory authority to issue same-sex licenses. He has pledged to withdraw Bloomberg’s challenge of the February marriage ruling and allow same-sex marriages here in January 2006.

Miller’s advocacy for our community is also clear in his budget priorities. In the past year, the Council has earmarked several million dollars in capital and program funding for groups including the LGBT Community Center, the Callen-Lorde Community Health Project, the Hetrick-Martin Institute and the Harvey Milk High School it administers, and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), among many. Next year’s budget provides an additional $2 million in support for LGBT youth programs and $670,000 for crystal meth treatment and education. During the past four years, more than $20 million has been targeted for HIV prevention in communities of color.

Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president and Democratic front-runner, distinguished himself in his 2001 mayoral bid by speaking bluntly—saying that Rudy Giuliani’s divisive leadership had created two New Yorks. But, after stumbling early this year with a statement contradicting his earlier criticisms of the 1999 police shooting death of Amadou Diallo in the Bronx, Ferrer has played it safe—but also lessened the likelihood that he will clear the 40 percent hurdle on September 13 that would spare him a run-off.

Congressman Anthony Weiner has shown both tenacity and talent, but it is hard to accept the premise that his Washington experience is a match for Miller’s hands-on experience at City Hall. Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields has an impressive personal history and eloquently articulates a message of full equality for all New Yorkers, but she has been unwilling this year to chart a bold vision for New York’s future.

We heartily recommend a vote for Gifford Miller that will enable him to proceed to the next round in this election season.

Scott Stringer for Manhattan Borough President

In a field of very highly qualified public servants, Upper West Side Assemblyman Scott Stringer stands out as the best candidate to hit the ground running in the post of Manhattan borough president.

This endorsement comes after considerable deliberation, especially given the candidacies of two experienced and passionate members of the gay and lesbian community, City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez and attorney Brian Ellner.

In an Albany career stretching back more than a decade, Stringer has been a consistent ally of the LGBT community. He was among the first legislators to sign on as a sponsor of a marriage equality bill; he has pressed the city’s Department of Education to update its inadequate HIV education curriculum, an effort due to bear fruit this fall, and he has unfailingly defended the confidentiality rights of people living with HIV.

It is difficult not to offer more encouragement to Lopez’s candidacy. She has been an advocate on a broad range of social justice issues for the past 25 years, but some of her political alliances that have come to light during this campaign—from the Church of Scientology to a group that calls itself the Stonewall Veterans Association—raise troubling questions about her willingness to apply her best judgment.

Ellner has run a courageous race in which he has proudly brought his partner Simon Holloway into the campaign. Ellner has served as president of a community school board and done creditable work as a pro bono attorney on significant gay civil rights cases, but that experience, laudable as it is, is no match for that of Stringer, who we believe will be best able to leverage the circumscribed powers of the borough presidency for public benefit.

Rosie Mendez for City Council

In a crowded race—with several impressive choices—for the District 2 City Council seat currently held by Margarita Lopez, we believe that Rosie Mendez is best qualified to carry on the progressive tradition for which this Lower East Side community has long been emblematic.

Mendez, who grew up in public housing in Williamsburg, has long been a fighter for affordable housing—an issue critical everywhere, put perhaps nowhere more than in the East Village and the Lower East Side. She has served tenants as a Legal Services lawyer, as a Democratic district leader, and in three years as Lopez’s chief of staff. Her activism has also included work for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Brian Kavanagh and Darren Bloch stand out among the other candidates seeking this seat, but in our view, Mendez, a lesbian whose life’s work has been tied to the issues at the heart of the district’s critical needs, will deliver the sort of representation consistent with the spirit of this very diverse community.

Other Races

In the race for public advocate, incumbent Betsy Gotbaum is a strong ally of the gay community who successfully pressed the Bloomberg administration on a number of critical AIDS issues, most recently winning a commitment from Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden to promptly address the failure of city STD clinics to adequately accommodate daily demand for testing. Challenger Norman Siegel, however, has a more aggressive view of the job than Gotbaum, one that we think is appropriate to New York’s political climate. Siegel for years distinguished himself as executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and is currently litigating one of the lawsuits seeking gay marriage rights in New York. Gotbaum denigrates Siegel as being hot-headed, scolding him in debates for “shouting again.” New Yorkers need an uncompromising advocate. We urge a vote for Siegel.

In the race for Manhattan district attorney, Robert Morgenthau’s 32 years in office might give voters pause, particularly in light of a strong challenge from former Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder. Morgenthau’s sometimes harsh prosecution of street protesters is a concern, but his support for gay rights, including marriage equality, is strong. Snyder’s support for the death penalty, even though the New York statute has been ruled unconstitutional, is a disqualifier in our view for a position as a prosecutor. We recommend a vote for Morgenthau.

In two hotly contested City Council races, incumbents Helen Sears in Jackson Heights’ District 25 and Oliver Koppell in the Bronx’s District 11 have been strong allies of the LGBT community and deserve re-election.

Among races in which we are not making endorsements, we are watching the hotly-contested district attorney race in Brooklyn, in which 16-year incumbent Joe Hynes risks losing his seat, and a number of hard-fought Council races, including the East Side District 4 race to replace Eva Moskowitz, in which the winner of the Democratic primary will meet gay Republican Patrick Murphy in November.