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By Jim Larkin
It could well be “do or lose” time for Michigan residents wanting to see an openly gay congressman representing their interests in Washington, D.C.
Trevor Thomas, who is seeking the Democratic nod in West Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, sure made it sound that way as he looked ahead to the upcoming July 15 deadline for filing campaign finance reports. He is almost certain to trail his well-established Democratic opponent, Steve Pestka, and recent polls show he must have the money to get his word out if he is to beat the former judge and state lawmaker.
“People need to get involved now. In a week or two it might be too late,” Thomas said, as the Aug. 7 primary loomed just over one month away. “The reality is we know we’re going to be outspent and we need all the help we can get now.”
It’s not that Thomas doesn’t think he can win. A poll he commissioned showed although Pestka has higher name recognition and favorability ratings, Thomas surges to a 22-point lead when those polled are presented with what Thomas called fairly-worded descriptions of both men.
“I really think I’m in this battle,” Thomas said. “We knew it was going to be tough and it is.”
But in order to win, he knows he has to have the money and volunteers needed to reach voters so they understand the choices in the race. He points to himself as the only strong pro-choice candidate – the Democratic victor will face incumbent Republican Tea Party candidate Justin Amash in November – in the race and also stresses his fiscally responsible and socially progressive stances that he said are akin to former seat-holder Gerald Ford.
“We need to make sure I’m aggressive and successful in fundraising and the field work is critical because there is such a small number of voters in a primary,” he said, when asked what he had to do to win. “If we can be competitive on the dollars we can win this.”
He also noted that gay, lesbian and transgender people across the state, not just in his district, have a stake in the race. With the state’s banning of domestic partner benefits, and gay stalwart Barney Franks leaving the U.S. House, the LGBT community needs a friend in Congress, he said. But in order to get one, it’s going to have to lend a helping hand, he added.
“I’m asking for help,” he said. “This is a strong opportunity to make a stand for what we stand for and what we believe in.”
A recent poll commissioned by the Pestka campaign had Pestka with a 39-15 percent margin over Thomas, which shows 46 percent of likely voters are still undecided and leaves the door open for either candidate to win.
Thomas’ most clear advantage in the race is his strong pro-choice stance during a heated national and state debate on women’s health care and Pestka’s shaky record on the issue. Pestka had a zero percent rating from Planned Parenthood in back-to-back scorecards from the group during his term in the state House, and cast a vote in 2001 that could have defunded Planned Parenthood.
Pestka told the Grand Rapids Press he would not make the same choice today if given the opportunity to vote on the same legislation. He added that he is personally opposed to abortion but does not support making abortion illegal. A month earlier, when interviewed by Between The Lines, Pestka wouldn’t fully explain his stance on abortion, saying only that his voting record while in office was pro-life and that it would not be an issue in the race.
But it has become one because Thomas has consistently made it one and the national focus on women’s health care.
“If he wants to stand up and be a Democrat standing with President Obama and (U.S. Sen.) Debbie Stabenow, then he needs to take positions that are the hallmark of the Democratic Party,” Thomas said.
How to help
– You can find out more about Trevor Thomas and either volunteer or donate to his campaign by going to http://www.trevorforcongress.com.
– You can find out more about Steven Pestka and either volunteer or donate to his campaign by going to http://www.votepestka.com.