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July 28, 2006

Never mind the gay guy

GOP leader denounces his own party�s candidate, whom he recruited

Cleveland--A Republican ward leader says having a gay state representative candidate on the ballot can hurt the party's gubernatorial nominee and urges fellow party leaders not to support him.

Ward 20 chief Richard May wrote a flier headlined, �GOP is the Pro-Family Values Party, Never mind the Gay Guy,� and distributed it to Cuyahoga County Republican Party leaders on July 19.

The target of the flier is Ohio House District 14 candidate William McGivern--whom May says he recruited to run for the post, before he discovered he is gay.

�Yes, I trust McGivern is more conservative than [incumbent Democratic candidate Mike] Foley,� wrote May. �But that does not mean he is worth any effort by our more conservative members.�

�What is important is to focus our work to promote the top of our ticket and never mind this sideshow,� May continued. He described the top of the ticket, including gubernatorial candidate Kenneth Blackwell, as �anti-abortion, anti-gay special rights� candidates, noting their support for the state and federal �Gay Marriage Ban� amendments.

May added that McGivern was �not open about his homosexuality.�

�We were deceived,� he wrote.

McGivern, a Log Cabin Republican and former owner of the gay bar Muggs, has been out for 36 years by his own count, and with his partner for 26 of them.

Attached to May�s pamphlet is a copy of the June 16 Gay People�s Chronicle report on McGivern�s campaign, which May says is McGivern�s coming-out event.

But May also wrote that there were �clues� about McGivern�s sexuality before then, including his association with Cleveland Log Cabin Republican chair Dale Giesige, who is McGivern�s campaign treasurer.

Another �clue,� according to May, is McGivern and Giesige�s failure to applaud anti-gay Democratic candidate Bill Ritter�s comment opposing gay marriage at a bipartisan candidate event.

During the Democratic primary, Ritter sent letters to voters saying they should oppose Foley because he supported same-sex marriage and was endorsed by the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats.

In the Republican primary, McGivern was unopposed.

�Getting more votes for Blackwell depends on [McGivern�s] behavior,� wrote May. �His reaction to conservative people was apparently coming out of the political closet.�

�We are considering a flyer statement about this matter in order to protect this organization,� wrote May. �Better us than the Plain Dealer, Scene, Free Times or Sun News.�

�They know now and will write about it in the most damaging way possible,� May opines.

May also says, �McGivern�s problem is he is not a team player.�

�Before his �coming out� last June . . . his major issues were health care and other senior issues,� on which May says McGivern represents �implicit criticism of the status quo on those issues which our party has created . . .�

But May implies that this is �tolerable� because Republicans �hardly have a group agreement on these matters.�

Under the heading, �Tell Us How We Got a Gay Candidate,� May wrote that he asked McGivern to consider running for this seat. During later recruitment discussions with Republican leaders, �McGivern claimed no �skeletons in the closet� for the media to discover.�

May noted that those meetings included Clevelanders for Family Values, which is affiliated with Citizens for Community Values of suburban Cincinnati, the group behind most of the anti-gay activity in Ohio.

McGivern answered May�s charge by saying, �I don�t consider being gay a skeleton.�

�Besides,� said McGivern, �the campaign is not about my sexual orientation. I want to stick to issues.�

McGivern said his being gay was not a secret among local Republicans, which Cuyahoga County Republican Party director Steven Backiel confirmed.

Backiel, who said he personally found out McGivern is gay six months ago, said, �Bill was my candidate before I knew he is gay, and he is my candidate after I knew he�s gay.�

Backiel said McGivern is working harder than any previous Republican seeking that seat, and he has support.

�Richard May doesn�t speak for the party,� said Backiel.

But McGivern said May�s campaign against him will hurt fundraising.

�The Republican Party is trying to figure out what to do with me,� McGivern added.

May did not return calls for comment.

Ohio Republican Party spokesperson John McClelland said McGivern�s sexual orientation is �not relevant to the major issues facing voters.�

Using gay Franklin County Republican Executive Committee chair Doug Preisse as an example, McClelland says the GOP is �an inclusive party� looking for people �who support traditional values� regardless of their orientation.

Both McClelland and Backiel are noticeably uncomfortable with May�s pamphlet, but at the same time, reluctant to outright condemn it.

Backiel described his reaction as �probably strong denouncement.�

Asked if he would condemn a similar pamphlet substituting racism for homophobia, Backiel said he could.

So why not this one? �That�s a tough question,� Backiel said, adding that it is �comparing apples and oranges.�

�They are nowhere near the same issue,� said Backiel. �Not the same playing field.�

May concluded his pamphlet with, �After this election we will do what is necessary to strengthen our district, party and our socially conservative friends that will be joining us during our picnic, Citizens for Community Values, the Christian Coalition of Ohio, the NRA, Ohioans for Concealed Carry and Release Ministries,� which connects incarcerated youth with conservative Christian churches.

McGivern faces Foley in November�s election.


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