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Don Rose: Progressives fuming over gay group’s Kirk endorsement

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., has been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT rights group in the country, in is re-election bid against U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Republicans must be cheering while Democratic jaws are dropping.

Before explaining why, let me pose a question:

Suppose you run a nonpartisan, social-issue organization. Like most such groups you keep score on how senators and congresspeople vote on your bills.

Let’s say in a forthcoming election, Legislator A gets a score of 100 percent in the most recent session. The opponent, Legislator B gets a respectable 78 percent. In a previous session B scored a miserable 39 percent.

Whom would you endorse?

Most people would answer “Legislator A, of course.”


Most people, that is, except the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBT rights organization in the country, which just endorsed Republican Senator Mark Kirk over Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, with the 100 percent record, in the Illinois senate race. Democrats for the most part vote for LGBT issues. The GOP rarely.

HRC has endorsed a few Republicans in the past without controversy. But this year the senate is up for grabs and Illinois is Ground Zero in Democratic efforts to win back at least four seats. HRC’s endorsement is rarely decisive, but the race is expected to be close.

Illinois’s gay vote was largely responsible for Republican George Ryan’s 1998 gubernatorial victory over Democrat Glenn Poshard. Poshard made anti-gay comments and refused to recant, turning normally Democratic gay districts in Chicago and college precincts Republican. I usually vote Democratic, but crossed over for Ryan (not knowing he would wind up in the slammer).

The HRC endorsement caused a furor within the organization, whose lengthy but feeble excuse for going against Duckworth was to encourage more Republicans to vote with them. Fat chance. More likely it was pressure from a network of closeted and openly gay Republican congressional aides fishing for Republican dollars.

As Eric Sasson put it in The New Republic, “A Democratic Senate may be the only way that a nominee favorable to LGBT rights will ever see a[Supreme Court] confirmation vote. Republicans are hell-bent on preventing any vote now, and may continue to do so even after the election. That any LGBT rights organization could be blind to these facts, and take steps against the interests of the community it is meant to serve, is deeply troubling.”

More troubling to HRC is its member and donor reaction. It stirred up a hornets’ nest.

One major donor-member notified the group: “By endorsing Mark Kirk ( IL) for the Senate you are jeopardizing the Democratic advancement in the Senate. This is one of the most important seats for the Democrats to gain in the 2016 election and Duckworth has a better (albeit shorter) record.

“I cannot support this organization any longer.”

The LGBT media slammed HRC and many more members quit. The organization might do well to remember what happened when a new official of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation made some anti-choice comments. She didn’t last long–and the organization still has not recovered half its previous funding.

Progressives do not take kindly to betrayal for whatever reason. Just ask the defeated Democratic State Rep. Ken Dunkin, who took sides with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Political consultant Don Rose writes for the Chicago Daily Observer, where this was posted.

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