A radical conservative group opposed to Democrat Garnet Lewis has raised the ire of the LGBT community with its airing of an ad focusing on her being an openly lesbian candidate. She ran for the seat representing the 98th Michigan House District. Lewis lost the race to Republican James Stamas, garnering 42 percent of the vote to Stamas’ 58 percent.
The Campaign for Michigan Families ad, which can be heard online http://www.gaypolitics.com/?p=868, ran on WSGW, a conservative talk radio station in Saginaw.
The radio ad focused exclusively on Lewis’ sexuality and her support from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. If she had been elected, Lewis would have been the first open lesbian to serve in the Michigan House of Representatives. The Campaign for Michigan Families is run by Gary Glenn, the president of the American Family Association of Michigan, a conservative group located in Midland.
The ad, which began airing Nov. 1, said Lewis is receiving support from “homosexual activist organizations” including http://www.Michiganequality.org, http://www.Pride-Pac.org and The Victory Fund out of Washington, D.C. The ad took issue with the support of Michigan Coalition for Progress, which was funded by openly gay Kalamazoo billionaire Jon Stryker.
The race between Lewis and Republican Jim Stamas was for a district that includes parts of Saginaw and Midland. Both candidates have had independent committee expenditures on their behalf, including The Coalition for Progress for Lewis and The Campaign for Michigan Families for Stamas.
Lewis refused to comment on the ad, stating only that she continued to campaign on the issues “like jobs, health care and education.”
Denis Dison, spokesperson for The Victory Fund in Washington D.C., called the ad “clumsily hateful.” The Victory Fund supports openly gay candidates in the bids for local, state and federal office.
“This is probably the most blatantly homophobic ad I have seen,” Dison said. “There’s no trying to hide the fact the messenger hates gay people.”
Dison said in most cases, attacks against openly gay or lesbian candidates tend to be couched as “no one cares about this person’s personal life, but…” and then goes on to attack the gay candidate’s stances on equality issues on LGBT issues.
In a press release, Glenn had the following to say: “Garnet Lewis is a homosexual activist with an extremely liberal agenda she puts on full display to raise money from fellow homosexual activists in Detroit, but keeps carefully hidden from voters here in Midland.
“Garnet Lewis and her fellow homosexual activists do not share, are in fact hostile to, the traditional family values of Midland and Saginaw County voters who voted overwhelmingly in favor of constitutionally protecting one-man, one-woman marriage.”
Calls to Gary Glenn and Jim Stamas were not returned.
Republican candidate Stamas was endorsed by The Citizens for Traditional Values, a Lansing-based group that defines its mission as, “A nonprofit civic league working on the grassroots level to encourage an active and informed citizenry in the State of Michigan. CTV seeks to broaden public understanding of the importance of personal freedom and traditional family values; and to work for the adoption of laws and public policies which reflect those values. This is accomplished by educating, networking, and mobilizing the pro-life, pro-family community.
Political pundits aren’t sure what role the advertisement may have played in the election, but did believe Lewis’ sexuality was a factor.
“When you reach into a very conservative area, particularly on social-cultural issues, and you are a lesbian and you are open about it – you are probably playing with fire. You have to expect push back,” said Bill Ballenger, editor of Inside Michigan Politics and a former Republican elected official in Michigan. “If you want to make a statement, fine, but to have a realistic chance to win, that’s not too good.”
Mark Grebner, who runs Practical Political Consulting in East Lansing, agreed with Ballenger. “I don’t think it (the 98th House District) was ever in play,” he said. “From what I have seen, the baseline is pretty Republican. She would have had to have been a real star candidate for that (district) to be in play.