MS. REBECCA SHEIR
I'm Rebecca Sheir and welcome back to "Metro Connection." Today, we're focusing on that formative yet fleeting period of life known as youth. We just talked about how few kids walk or bike to school these days. And later on we'll go behind the curtain at D.C.'s Arena Stage to meet some child actors and the woman who works as their cheerleader, guidance counselor and friend.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
First, though, a pretty big event is happening in D.C. this coming week. Tuesday's special election in Ward 5 will fill a vacant seat on the D.C. counsel, a seat formerly occupied by Harry Thomas Jr. Thomas has been sentenced to more than three years in jail for stealing hundreds of thousands of public dollars meant for youth sports. The man who first raised allegations that Thomas was on the take is a local accountant and activist named Tim Day.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Day is now one of 12 candidates running to replace Thomas. Two things of note though, Day is the only Republican on the ballot. He's also the only candidate who's openly gay. David Schultz followed Tim Day on the streets of Ward 5 and brings us this story.
MR. TIM DAY
Hello, young lady.
MR. DAVID SCHULTZ
Tim Day is doing something nearly every political candidate has to do, knocking on doors and talking to voters.
What's going on today?
MS. CLARENCETTA JELKS
Day is on the porch of Clarencetta Jelks, a retired public school librarian who lives in Brookland neighborhood. With her wind chime clanging in the background, Jelks tells Day what she thinks are Ward 5's big problems, Public corruption, school bureaucracy and no place to buy fresh vegetables.
...or why couldn't we have gotten a Wegmans in the District?
We don't have any of that.
We're getting two.
The two talk for another half an hour and after Day secures Jelks vote, he gets back in his car. That's when Day realizes in their half hour talk his sexual orientation never came up.
And, you know, she said she'd Googled me. She knew exactly who I was, you know. So she clearly knows that I'm the gay black Republican. You know, a lot of people don't care, you know, a lot of them don't care.
Of course, there are many who do. The issue of gay rights, especially same-sex marriage is still a dicey one for some Washingtonians. But Day says he gets much less from voters for being gay than he does from gays for being a Republican.
Coming out as a Republican is harder than coming out as a gay man. I just had this conversation the other day with a large group of people. I'm like, I feel like I'm coming out of the closet again.
The Republican Party is loathed by many within the gay community and maybe not without reason. None of the major candidates who ran for the Republican nomination for president supported legalizing same sex marriage. And just last week, an openly gay advisor to Mitt Romney resigned after less two weeks on the job. Anti-gay Republican activists had reportedly attacked the Romney campaign for hiring him. Things like this make life really difficult for Clark Cooper, leader of the gay conservative group, Log Cabin Republicans.
MR. CLARK COOPER
It is a challenge within the LGBT community.
Cooper says the actions of those at the top of the Republican Party are hiding a generational sea change among the rank and file.
There's been actually a shift within party circles. The younger the conservative, the more likely they're either agnostic or supportive on issues that would be defined as gay rights issues.
But because the GOP still outwardly rejects much of the gay rights movement, many gays reject all Republicans. Cooper says this is for some gay Republicans into a different kind of closet. He says some Log Cabin members who own small businesses in gay neighborhoods have to keep their politics hidden for fear of alienating their customers.
Yes, there are a number of members in 44 chapters in the United States that are engaged politically but kind of engaged on the down-low in the sense that they may be very openly gay but they're not openly Republican.
One person who's definitely not a secret Log Cabin member is Dan Savage, sex advice columnist, gay rights activist and Liberal Pundit. Savage says the party's opposition to nearly very major gay rights issue proves that its leaders are bigots and he says to hide that bigotry, the GOP is using groups like Log Cabin as mere window dressing or as Savage calls, pink washing.
MR. DAN SAVAGE
I have a problem with gay people who are carrying water for the GOP. To identify as a gay Republican right now I think is very nearly impossible.
We asked the Republican National Committee what it's doing to win over gay voters and our NC spokesperson responded that this fall's election will be about the economy. Tim Day says he's fed up with his party on the issue of gay rights.
Well, I think that the republican, the National Republican Party, should be ashamed of their selves because of their behavior. So I'm really looking at, you know, Obama as a better option.
It might not be surprising that Day is considering voting Democratic given that he's running in a ward where more than 96 percent of the votes went for Barack Obama in 2008. it's a ward where having an R next to your name is probably more of a liability than whatever your sexual orientation may be. But Day's confident. He says he'll win if he can just meet enough Ward 5 voters.
It's that 30 second interaction that you have to have them. You need to convince them that you're not a Republican monster what they think Republicans are. That you're not this horrible gay person and that if you're talking to a gay person that, you know, you're not a bad person because you're a Republican.
In other words, Day is trying to come out to the voters and show them who he really is. I'm David Schultz.
David produced this story along with Alaura Riffken (sp?) and Heather Kaygal (sp?) . All three are students at American University which holds the license for WAMU 88.5.
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