Get out the vote at the Aug. 3 primary

By |2004-07-29T09:00:00-04:00July 29th, 2004|Uncategorized|

During the Aug. 3 primary election, proponents of fairness and equal rights have the opportunity to cast their vote for candidates that support LGBT equality. BTL spoke with Pride PAC’s Sean Kosofsky about a few of the candidates who have earned Pride PAC’s endorsement and deserve the support of the LGBT and allied community. This list is by no means exhaustive. To find the candidates in your area endorsed by Pride PAC visit

Pride PAC endorsed candidates in the Democratic primary include:

Oakland County

Marie Donnigan – Michigan House of Representatives 26th District
Respected Royal Oak City Commissioner Marie Donnigan hopes to receive the nod to run for Representative of Michigan’s 26th District, which includes Royal Oak and Madison Heights. That job is currently held by Dave Woodward, who cannot run again because of term limits.
“She is the most qualified person to be representing that district. She’s been a long-time ally to our community,” said Kosofsky.
Donnigan was one of the most vocal supporters of the proposed Royal Oak Human Rights Ordinance as a memeber of the Commission in 2001. The ordinance would have protected LGBT residents against discrimination in the most basic areas of housing and employment.
“We will never have to worry about her position on our issues in our state Capitol,” said Kosofsky. “She’s everything that’s right with politics. She’s a leader.”

Dave Coulter – Oakland County Commission 25th District
Openly-gay Dave Coulter is currently serving as Oakland County Commissioner of Michigan’s 25th District which includes Ferndale, Hazel Park and the south portion of Royal Oak.
Coulter is being challenged in the primary by Ruel McPherson, the 20-year incumbent he beat out for the job in the primary two years ago. In answer to a questionnaire by the Mirror newspaper, McPherson expressed his support for an amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples. Coulter is unequivocally against such an amendment. He was also an outspoken opponent of anti-gay commissioner Tom McMillin’s resolution supporting such an amendment last year.
“Everyone loves Dave,” said Kosofsky. “He has brought a tremendous new energy into his county commission district. His youth and energy and his commitment to representing everyone in his district has been very refreshing. He’s trying to fight sprawl and supports older suburbs.”
Kosofsky believes that the LGBT community made the difference in Coulter’s last race.

Dave Woodward – Oakland County Commission 18th District
After being forced out of the Michigan House due to term limits, Dave Woodward, 28, is throwing his hat in the ring for the Oakland County Commission’s 18th District, which includes Royal Oak. LGBT ally Marie Donnigan is running for his seat in the House.
“Dave is a towering example of who our community needs representing us,” said Kosofsky, who called Woodward a “solid” ally. “He’s a total leader and a fighter on the House floor and he’s the kind of passionate, pro-gay person we need on the commission of Oakland County.”
Having LGBT allies on the Commission is crucial. Last year, notorious anti-gay commissioner Tom McMillin introduced an anti-gay resolution supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment that was passed by the Commission.
Of Woodward, Kosofsky said, “He has ten times the wit and intelligence that Tom McMillin has.”
Woodward, a graduate of Wayne State University, is endorsed by the Detroit Free Press.

Washtenaw County

Alma Wheeler Smith – Michigan House of Representatives 54th District
“Alma Wheeler-Smith has been a long-time advocate for the gay and lesbian community,” said Kosofsky. “She’s a hero.”
Wheeler-Smith was the only Michigan Senator to vote against the marriage ban in 1996. She spent eight years in the Michigan Senate (1995-2002). In addition, she was the first African-American woman to run for governor in Michigan before becoming Rep. David Bonior’s running mate in the 2002 election. She has earned the Michigan Education Association’s endorsement.
Michigan’s 54th District includes the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti, Augusta, Superior and Salem townships.
“She’s distinguished herself for a long time,” said Kosofsky. “Her support for us has been unqualified. She is a remarkable woman.”

Chris Kolb – Michigan House of Representatives 53rd District
Chris Kolb currently represents Michigan’s 53rd District, which includes Ann Arbor. He is in his second term in the Michigan House of Representatives. Prior to his tenure in the House, Chris served four terms on the Ann Arbor City Council and was Mayor Pro-tem from 1994 through 2000.
“Chris Kolb has been the most vocal openly LGBT politician in Michigan,” said Kosofsky. “He singlehandedly has helped change the climate in Lansing, by being out and building relationships with folks from both sides of the aisle.” According to Kosofsky, Kolb has become the unofficial go-to person for his colleagues when they have questions about LGBT issues. “He’s done a terrific job representing our community and he’s been a terrific role model for our community.”
In addition to Pride PAC, Kolb has received endorsements from groups including the Michigan Education Association, Sierra Club, Michigan’s Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women – Michigan Conference.
For more information visit

Wayne County

Steven Tobocman – Michigan House of Representatives 12th District
Steve Tobocman is currently serving his first term as the Representative for Michigan’s 12th District, which includes a large part of Detroit.
“Steve Tobocman is a very exciting politician. He is what I consider to be the future of the Democratic party,” said Kosofsky.
“He immediately contacted the gay community [after being elected in 2002] and asked, ‘What can I do for you?’ And he introduced several bills to repeal arcane laws like the gross indecency law,” Kosofsky said. “He’s a very visible and long term ally for our community.”
Tobocman voted against the anti-gay marriage amendment when it was before the Michigan House in March.
“It’s unfortunate that someone’s challenging him in this primary because he’s done an incredible job representing his district,” said Kosofsky.

Deborah Perry – Michigan House of Representatives 14th District
Deborah Perry is looking to fill an open seat being vacated by Dem. William O’Neil in the 14th District which includes Lincoln Park, Ecorse, Melvindale, and part of Allen Park. O’Neil was the only Democrat to co-sponsor the anti-gay marriage amendment in the House, though he ended up voting against it.
Kosofsky said Perry is a strong candidate. “Not only did she respond well on the [Pride PAC] questionnaire, I know Deb from some activism Downriver and she has supported the Triangle Foundation in the past,” he said. “Many of the progressive folks in that region are supporting her. A lot of eyes are on Deb around the state.”
Perry is also endorsed by the Downriver NOW and the Detroit Free Press.

Macomb County

Paul Gieleghem in Macomb County Commission 19th District
Current State Representative Paul Gieleghem, pushed out of the House because of term limits, is running for a seat on the Macomb County Commission representing the 19th District, which includes central Clinton Township.
Gieleghem has been a state representative for five and a half years according to Kosofsky. “He’s been a strong ally of ours in the state Capitol and now he’s running for Macomb County Commission,” said Kosofsky. “If we would have had someone like Paul on the Commission last year we would have seen even stronger leadership last year (regarding the resolution to support a Constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples.
Gieleghem has also been endorsed by the Free Press over incumbent James Perna, who voted in favor of the resolution to support a constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples in 2003.

Lapeer County

Gerald McEwen – Lapeer County Commission 1st District
Retired military sergeant major Gerald McEwen will face off against incumbent Cheryl Clark in the Aug. 3 primary. Clark, the only Democrat on the Lapeer County Commission, voted in favor of the anti-gay resolution in support of amending the Constitution to ban marriage for same-sex couples last year.
According to a recent article in the Flint Journal, Lapeer’s Democratic Party sought out McEwen as an opponent to Clark because of her support for the anti-gay resolution. McEwen said he would focus on local issues.

Aug. 3 court races:

Lynne A. Pierce – 3rd Circuit Judge of the Circuit Court (Wayne County)

Mary Ellen Brennan – 6th Circuit Judge of the Circuit Court (Oakland County)

Republican race to watch:

{Patrick M. Dohany – Oakland County Treasurer}
Incumbent Treasurer Patrick M. Dohany is being challenged in the Republican Primary by anti-gay Oakland County Commissioner Tom McMillin.
McMillin’s challenge in part led the Republican executive committee to endorse Dohany, as well as five other incumbents, by a vote of 71-4 on June 24.
McMillin is also the former mayor of Auburn Hills. In 2000, he teamed up with Gary Glenn of the American Family Association to help defeat a proposed human rights ordinance in Ferndale. Since then he has been on the vanguard of most anti-gay initiatives in Michigan, including the current attempt to pass an amendment to the Michigan Constitution that would ban any legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
“Pride PAC did endorse Pat Dohany specifically because McMillin would be a wretched public servant for the entire county. It’s bad enough that he’s representing the people from his district,” said Kosofsky. “He is nothing but a lightening rod of anti-gay sentiment and he does not need a county-wide platform to be speaking from.”
Added Kosofsky, “I’m not too familiar with Pat’s positions, however, anyone running against Tom McMillin is better than Tom McMillin.”

LGBT vote makes a difference

Kosofsky believes that the LGBT community can make a difference in elections. “Increasingly our community is being more and more visible,” he said, adding that Pride PAC saw a higher rate of return for surveys in 2004 than in any previous year. “There’s an increasing sense that candidates want to be on the record about supporting and fairness,” he said, adding that more and more candidates are putting their pride PAC endorsement on their literature.
Earning a Pride PAC endorsement is no small task. “We have a pretty sophisticated process by which we endorse, so earning a Pride PAC endorsement is a pretty big achievement,” Kosofsky said.

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