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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
August 4, 2006

HRC causes a stir by endorsing both Kilroy
and Pryce

Columbus--The nation�s largest LGBT political organization has generated some controversy by endorsing both candidates in a central Ohio congressional race.

The Human Rights Campaign gave the nod and $2,500 to both Rep. Deborah Pryce and her Democratic opponent, Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy, for the 15th District seat.

Pryce, a 14-year incumbent, is the fourth most powerful member of the House as the Republican conference chair.

Kilroy, who supports full marriage equality, has a 20-year positive relationship with the Columbus LGBT community, many of whom live in the district.

Pryce ended the last Congressional session in 2004 with a Human Rights Campaign legislative score of 44 percent. The figure was lower than previous years, but reflects her vote against a marriage ban amendment and the presence of a gay and lesbian non-discrimination policy in her office.

�How can HRC consider a 44 percent approval rating worthy of �campaign support to fair-minded candidates?� � said Stonewall Democrats of Central Ohio president Russ Goodwin. �When I went to school, a 44 percent was failing.�

Goodwin is calling on HRC to reconsider.

�Mary Jo Kilroy has marched with us in Pride parades since long before it was cool,� added 15th District resident Matt Hamparian, also a Stonewall Democrat. �Deborah Pryce has no outreach to the community and would not come within 300 feet of Pride.�

Pryce has long been a challenge for groups making LGBT political endorsements because of her position of influence, her relationship to the LGBT community and the demographics of her district, which includes conservative Union and Madison counties as well as over half of Columbus.

While she is more moderate on social issues than other Republicans in leadership positions, her record on LGBT issues is mixed.

Last year, Pryce supported a border closing measure that makes it more difficult for bi-national LGBT couples to live in the U.S. But last month, she voted against the federal marriage ban amendment, as she did in 2004.

However, Pryce opposed a bill last year to federalize hate crimes based on sexual orientation, and she also voted in 2004 to bar courts from hearing challenges to the federal �defense of marriage act� of 1996.

With an HRC score of 83 percent from the previous congressional session, Pryce was endorsed in 2004 by both HRC and Stonewall Columbus.

She also received the HRC endorsement two years earlier with a score of 67 percent, having been a sponsor of the gay and lesbian Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

In 2000, HRC also endorsed Pryce with a score of 50 percent, despite her opposition to that year�s hate crime bill--which she supported two years later.

It is her vote against last year�s hate crime bill that is at the heart of the current brouhaha.

HRC was committed to Pryce last year

Terry Penrod, an HRC director who lives in the district, said the contest was difficult for HRC to sort out. He sent a personal e-mail with the July 28 endorsement press release, trying to blunt the reaction.

�I know many of you consider yourselves to be loyal Democrats and progressives,� wrote Penrod. �Suffice it to say, we spent countless hours discussing this race over conference calls, e-mails and meetings.�

Penrod was announcing that HRC did something it had never done before--issue a dual endorsement accompanied by $2,500 for each candidate.

He said that decision turned largely on Pryce�s opposition to this year�s federal marriage ban amendment, calling its defeat �the most important thing HRC did this year.�

Penrod said a major factor was HRC�s recent policy of endorsing as early as possible.

In this case, that meant that the group was committed to endorsing Pryce over a year ago in April 2005, and had already given her some money.

Her vote against the hate crime bill came later that summer.

�The dual endorsement shows moderates that we will hold them accountable,� said Penrod. �By doing this we are highlighting both the positives and the negatives.�

With the dual endorsement, HRC noted both candidates� records in the press statements, describing Kilroy�s as �exemplary� and Pryce�s as �generally supportive� of LGBT issues.

�We don�t have 100 percent of Democrats on our side� in the House, said Penrod, �so we still need moderates. Pryce is one of the moveable middle in Congress, and we want to continue to work with and dialogue with her office.�

�We know [Kilroy] will be stronger and better on the issues,� Penrod concluded.

Local and D.C. philosophies collide

Goodwin says the dissatisfaction for the dual endorsement goes beyond just LGBT Democrats.

�With the dual endorsement, it appears that between Pryce and Kilroy that there is no difference, that the playing field is level,� said Goodwin. �That�s just not true.�

�This was a Beltway decision,� said Goodwin. �HRC is hedging their bets.�

Goodwin said HRC should not be giving money to support candidates �in lockstep with the Bush agenda.�

He further criticized Pryce for not speaking out against the anti-LGBT speech on the floor of the House during the marriage ban amendment debates.

�She knew about her race. She knew the amendment would not pass. She can�t have it both ways. She�s a leader, and she should lead,� Goodwin said.

Hamparian said from what he�s hearing, he thinks HRC hurt itself in the Columbus area with the dual endorsement.

�They are the ones coming out of this the loser,� said Hamparian. �We need people fighting for our team, not both sides.�

Penrod says the dual endorsement does not hurt Kilroy, and that since Kilroy wants HRC help with her campaign, she will get it.

Pryce, according to Penrod, �has not reached out for help.�

Nationally, HRC has endorsed 18 U.S. Senate candidates, including two Republicans and Ohio�s Democratic candidate Sherrod Brown. HRC has given Brown $7,000 to date and will be providing additional campaign assistance.

In addition to Pryce and Kilroy, HRC has endorsed six other House candidates from Ohio, all Democrats.

John Cranley of Cincinnati got $5,000; Marcy Kaptur of Toledo and Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland got $1,000 each; Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Cleveland and Tim Ryan of Youngstown each got $2,000.

HRC has endorsed a total of 179 House candidates, 12 of whom are Republicans.

In Ohio, HRC has also endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland, and HRC members will be doing fundraising on his behalf. Election law prohibits HRC from making contributions to non-federal candidates.


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