By Lisa Keen
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton had to scramble this week to correct a misstatement about Nancy Reagan’s contribution to the AIDS epidemic. But there are very few signs that her LGBT support has abandoned her, and she racked up decisive wins in Tuesday’s primaries —- taking four out of five of the large primary states.
Clinton won the majority of votes in the primaries of Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio. Missouri was still undecided for both Democrats and Republicans as of Wednesday morning, but it appeared that race, too, would go to Clinton.
Clinton now has 66 percent of the 2,383 delegates she needs to secure the nomination; Sanders has 34 percent.
In the Republican primaries yesterday, real estate mogul Donald Trump won three of the five primaries yesterday, including Florida, Illinois and North Carolina. Longshot Republican contender John Kasich won the primary in his home state of Ohio, significantly bolstering the hopes for the politically moderate candidate in the GOP field. But U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio lost his home state of Florida and announced early Tuesday night that he was suspending his campaign.
Trump now has 50 percent of the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the Republican presidential nomination; U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has 32 percent; and Kasich has 11 percent. During his victory speech Tuesday night, Kasich said he would go “all the way to Cleveland,” where the GOP convention will take place this summer, to win the nomination.
The race for the Republican nomination has been thrown into a state of shock and intrigue. Most political leaders in both parties have expressed disbelief and revulsion at Trump’s comments at many of his rallies. Among other things, Trump has called for banning all Muslims from entering this country, said Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists, and hesitated to disavow the KKK and a former Grand Wizard, David Duke. He has also encouraged his supporters to “punch” people protesting his racially hostile remarks and even “promised” to pay for their legal expenses. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he urged Trump to “condemn and discourage” violence at his rallies. Trump blamed Sanders’ supporters for disrupting a planned rally in Chicago last week. According to one local television station, protesters against Trump chanted “Racist pig, anti-gay, Donald Trump, go away.” U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said the anti-Trump crowd included “men and women, gay and straight, black and white, Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Jews from every part of the world.”
Trump fired back with a post on Twitter: “Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours!” Speaking from West Palm Beach, Florida, on Tuesday night, Clinton referred to Trump and his controversial remarks.
“We should be breaking down barriers, not building walls,” said Clinton. “… We have to take on all forms of inequality and discrimination. Together, we have to defend all of our rights — civil rights and voting rights, workers rights and women LGBT rights and rights for people with disabilities.”
Clinton has consistently mentioned LGBT people in her remarks at many campaign events, but she set off a small firestorm last Friday when, attending the funeral for former First Lady Nancy Reagan, she complimented Mrs. Reagan as having helped start a national conversation about AIDS when President Reagan was in office. Many activists still remember how painfully slow President Reagan was to address the AIDS crisis that exploded unchecked in the 1980s. Very few were aware of any contribution Nancy Reagan made to help people with AIDS. Clinton issued an apology and posted a message on Twitter, saying “I misspoke about (the Reagans’) record on HIV and AIDS. For that I am sorry.” She later issued a second statement, discussing at length the early response to AIDS.
“To be clear, the Reagans did not start a national conversation about HIV and AIDS,” wrote Clinton. “That distinction belongs to generations of brave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, along with straight allies, who started not just a conversation but a movement that continues to this day.”
Sen. Sanders, who has a long and strong record of supporting equal rights for LGBT people, also mentioned them during his remarks Tuesday night. But his hour-long speech to a rally in Arizona was not covered by most channels.
At a town hall sponsored by CNN Sunday night, Sanders said that civil rights movements, including the gay movement, have shown that “the only way we really transform this country is when people stand up by the millions and fight back.”
Anecdotal information suggests the LGBT community is largely behind Clinton, though a significant number support Sanders. In early February, a marketing survey of 563 LGBT voters nationwide found that 48 percent would vote for Clinton, 41 percent for Sanders, 2 percent for Trump, and 1 percent each for Kasich and Rubio. Four percent were undecided. No exit polls yet have identified LGBT voters in the primary states.
The newly formed LGBT Congressional Equality PAC, led by Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Mark Takano, D-Calif., announced Monday it was endorsing Clinton for president. LPAC, a pro-lesbian political action committee headed by Chicago activist Laura Ricketts and District of Columbia-based Hilary Rosen, supported Clinton. Ricketts and Rosen both gave personal contributions to Clinton, too. And Rosen has been a long-time Clinton ally.
In DC, longtime activist Rick Rosendall said he’s supporting Clinton.
“Hillary is a pragmatic liberal. She is a bit too hawkish for me, and a bit too friendly to Bibi Netanyahu, but as Secretary of State, she demonstrated an understanding of the value and importance of diplomacy,” said Rosendall. “In that job, she also went to Geneva to launch a worldwide LGBT rights effort. She has embraced President Obama’s legacy, and I think he is the best president of my lifetime.”
“I think Sanders is a good guy and has helped the Democratic cause by bringing his issues to the campaign,” added Rosendall. “But he is a single-issue candidate, and his hectoring style is wearing thin with me. He would be crucified in the general election for his praise for Fidel Castro. And I don’t see evidence of his ability to enact his proposals. Also, Hillary is much more deft on racial issues.”
?In Illinois last week, Clinton released a list of 93 LGBT supporters. The list includes State Rep. Kelly Cassidy; Chicago Aldermen James Cappleman, Ray Lopez and Deb Mell; Community Leader Bernard Cherkasov; long-time activist Rick Garcia; and NGLTF Creating Change Co-Chair Kenny Martin-Ocasio. The Sanders campaign released a similar list three days later with 28 names, including Chicago Aldermen Carlos Rosa.
Next week, GOP primaries will take place in Arizona and Utah; Democratic primaries will take place in those states plus Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii and Washington.