by Bob Roehr
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released its first round of endorsements and outlined plans to mobilize the LGBT vote in an April 28 conference call with reporters.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect was its failure to endorse Jim Neal, the openly gay candidate running in North Carolina for the Democratic nomination to the US Senate, who would take on incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole.
"Our community there is rather split," asserted Solmonese. He said HRC is waiting until after the May 3 primary to make a decision. Neal's opponent, while gay supportive, has been criticized by some within the community as hesitant to say so in public settings.
Neal is an investment banker and longtime party activist and fundraiser in North Carolina. The national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, headed up by Sen. Chuck Schumer (New York), has tried to blackball Neal. The group officially stays neutral during primaries but that was called into question when it failed to even mention that Neal is running for the nomination. Critics have called that anti-gay.
The 14 Senators HRC is endorsing are primarily Democratic incumbents who face a smooth reelection. Others include Mark Udall (Colorado), and Tom Udall (New Mexico), running for open seats, and Al Franken (Minnesota) and Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire), respectively taking on Republican incumbents Norm Coleman and John Sununu.
Susan Collins (Maine) is the only Republican on the list. Solmonese pointed out that she is a lead sponsor of the crown jewel of their legislative agenda, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and "was a real leader in the hate crimes fight in the fall."
When pressed on the resources they will be putting into Collin's race, Solmonese said, "We haven't made a decision yet about what exactly we are going to do up there in terms of resources."
HRC has declared 2008 the "Year to Win" and is investing $7 million in mobilizing its 700,000 members, others within the LGBT community, friends and allies into the election process.
"Camp Equality" will provide "state-of-the-art campaign training for more than 1,500 participants in 13 cities" to help provided volunteers in targeted races.