Friday, August 15, 2008

Local Democrats gear up for convention, general election

With the Democratic and Republican conventions two weeks away, local politicos continue to gear up to support their respective candidates and to continue to campaign on their behalf this fall. An article I wrote for both EDGE and the Fire Island News this week details these desires... and the fact it will become all politics all the time once again.

With the Democratic National Convention less than two weeks away, Democrats and activists from across the five boroughs are slated to travel to Denver.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn [D-Chelsea], state Sen. Tom Duane [D-Chelsea], City Councilmember Rosie Mendez [D-Lower East Side] and United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten are among the nearly two dozen LGBT delegates to the convention. Doctor Marjorie Hill, chief executive officer for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, New York Transgender Rights Organization director Melissa Sklarz and political wunderkind Corey Johnson are among those who will travel to Denver as part of a variety of DNC committees.

In addition to preparations to attend the DNC, local, state and even national politicians have made several trips to Fire Island this summer to court potential voters and raise funds for their campaigns.

Democratic National Committee [DNC] Chair Howard Dean made his annual appearance in the Fire Island Pines on Sunday, Aug. 10, to attend a fundraiser for the Democratic Party. The former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate appeared alongside openly gay Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank and DNC Treasurer and Pines resident Andy Tobias.

DNC officials had yet to tabulate the amount of money raised at the fundraiser as of press time, but Dean urged attendees to support Barack Obama this November.

"We are responsible for maintaining our own democracy-not me, but you," he said. "I believe our country is worth fighting for and this is what it’s all about."

Dean blasted President Bush on a whole host of issues that include the economy and the detention of terrorism suspects held at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. He added he feels alleged torture and other interrogation techniques used against these detainees have further jeopardized the country’s reputation abroad.

"That is the fundamental shame of what the Bush administration has done to our country and the world," Dean said.

He further criticized the administration for the way he feels it has mismanaged the War on Terror.

"We are not safer," Dean said. "We have lost 4,000 people. We are not winning the war in Afghanistan."

Dean also discussed LGBT rights. He signed the country’s first civil unions law in 2000 as governor of Vermont. These unions, domestic partnerships and marriage for same-sex couples are now legal in Massachusetts, California and more than half a dozen other states.

"The extraordinary thing has been since 2000, when George W. Bush took office, one state had marriage equivalency-mine," Dean said. "Now there’s nine. That’s amazing."

He further criticized presumptive Republican Presidential nominee John McCain. Frank specifically referred to the landmark Lawrence vs. Texas decision that overturned the country’s remaining sodomy laws in 2003 as he stressed he feels voters should elect Obama.

"It is almost certain the next president will reshape the Supreme Court," he said. "We can’t afford John McCain."

New York Sen. Charles Schumer agreed. He appeared alongside U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell [D-Wash.] at a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Aug. 2 that raised more than $120,000. The DSCC’s mission to elect a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate by supporting candidates in Alaska, Colorado, Mississippi, New Hampshire and other battleground states.

Press was not allowed to attend the fundraiser, but Schumer, who had endorsed Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign, told WNYC reporter Amy Eddings in an Aug. 7 interview he feels Democrats are poised to pick up a significant number of Senate seats this November.

"The wind is clearly at our back," he said. "People want change." Schumer further conceded a number of former Clinton supporters remain upset the former First Lady will not garner her party’s nomination. He avoided a question about whether he feels Obama would choose Clinton as his running mate. Schumer did add, however, he remains confident the former First Lady will continue to support her former campaign trail rival.

"[She] knows how important it is to take back the government," he said. "These seven years of George Bush have been a disaster."

Schumer and Dean are not the only elected officials and other politicians who have stumped for votes and money on Fire Island this summer. Long Island Congressman Tim Bishop [D-Southampton] held a fundraiser in the Pines in late June, while Brookhaven Town Supervisor Brian Foley, who seeks to unseat long-time incumbent state Sen. Caesar Trunzo [R-Brentwood] and Brookhaven Town Councilmember Tim Mazzei have also raised money on the beach in recent weeks. And openly lesbian New York City Council candidate Yetta Kurland is scheduled to hold a fundraiser in the Pines on Aug. 24.

State Assemblywoman Ginny Fields [D-Oakdale] held one of the more unique Fire Island political events on Aug. 2 with the second annual Ginny Fields look-a-like contest at Heaven n’ Earth in Cherry Grove.

Lola Galore and the partner of openly gay state Assemblyman Matthew Titone [D-Staten Island] proved imitation is really the most sincere form of flattery.

"Ginny doesn’t have a purse or a clutch," Titone’s partner pointed out as he dubbed himself Ginny from the Block. "She has a suitcase. That’s what this is all about."

State Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer [D-Far Rockaway], a candidate for Queens Borough President, and Islip Town Councilman Gene Parrington also joined Titone and Fields. It quickly became clear, however, Galore had won the competition.

She reflected upon her hard fought victory.

"I’m just here to celebrate with Ginny," the 2007 Cherry Grove Homecoming Queen said. "I love her and I want to support her."

Fields added she felt flattered by the local queens’ efforts. She feels it remains important to make time to connect with her island constituents and to learn about the issues.

"It’s terrific to have an elected official set their feet on the sand and boardwalks," Fields said.

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