Volume four, Issue 24 | June 16 - 22, 2005
By wide margins, members of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats (GLID), one of the city’s oldest LGBT political clubs, on June 9 voted to endorse City Council Speaker Gifford Miller for mayor, Assemblyman Scott Stringer for Manhattan borough president and incumbent Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum for reelection in the September 13 primary.
With roughly 115 GLID members voting, Miller garnered more than 80 percent of the total and Stringer more than 70 percent, according to Melissa Sklarz, the GLID president.
But several leading Democrats—including the two openly gay and lesbian borough president candidates who lost out to Stringer as well as Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, the longest serving out elected official in New York—are complaining about the club’s voting process.
Spokesmen for Miller and Stringer, meanwhile, are dismissing the complaints as politics as usual, while Sklarz concedes that the endorsement meeting could have been better managed.
The most detailed comments on the endorsements came from Glick, who is a supporter of former Bronx Borough Pres. Fernando Ferrer in his bid for mayor and of City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez, a lesbian running for borough president.
“Packing clubs is a time honored tradition,” she said, referring to the election year phenomenon of Democratic club membership swelling to reflect competition among candidates. “But in the 1980s we packed the club with gay people to vote an endorsement for a gay man, David Rothenberg [then running for City Council] This is a packing of the club with gay and straight people, largely with people who are campaign staff, or from the staffs of elected officials. That is a somewhat different situation.”
According to Glick, select people in attendance at last week’s meeting were handed a list of candidates for whom to vote.
“It was clearly handed to others,” Glick said. “It was not handed to me There was clearly a decision to deliver the club for Gifford Miller and Scott Stringer.”
Sklarz said that after controversy about the surge in GLID’s ranks to more than 600 members on the eve of the 2001 mayoral endorsement, the club adopted rules allowing only members who joined at least 90 days earlier to vote.
“Whatever electioneering done through new memberships was done months in advance,” Sklarz said, noting that despite a spike in its ranks early this year, the club has just over 200 members.
Brian Ellner, a gay civil rights attorney running for borough president, echoed Glick’s charges of packing, but said he did not know whether any concerted slate had been assembled in advance of the endorsement vote.
“Club packing may be a part of politics as usual, but that is exactly the kind of politics we are trying to change,” Ellner said, adding, “There were a lot of political operatives in the room and I found that shocking, seemingly more operatives than members.”
Lopez was similarly critical of the GLID vote.
“The procedure was once again a sham,” she said, also referring back to 2001. “I witnessed one more time how the institutions we create to support candidates that are gay are now used as weapons used to destroy good candidates in our community.”
From the perspective of Stringer’s campaign, the charges sound like the laments of sore losers.
“I really think this is sour grapes,” said David Gringer, a Stringer spokesman. “Scott has a great record on LGBT rights. That’s why he has the support of [state Sen.] Tom Duane and [Assemblyman] Danny O’Donnell.”
Gringer noted that Stringer was named legislator of the year by GLID in 1996, is a co-sponsor of the same-sex marriage bill in Albany and in his 2001 bid for public advocate had the support of Glick, who then said, “In the struggle for LGBT equality, Scott has been more than a friend, he’s been a partner.”
A spokesperson for Miller, who asked not to be identified by name, said, “Gifford Miller is very proud to have the support of GLID and other gay and lesbian organizations around the city as a part of his building the broadest and most diverse coalition of any candidate in the race. Any suggestion that the folks who came out to support him were doing so out of anything other than recognizing the significant work he has done on behalf of the gay and lesbian community is just silly.”
Duane, for his part, credited Stringer for mobilizing membership within GLID, saying the effort to recruit supporters to the club “is the kind of effort I made all the time as a district leader.”
Duane is also supporting Miller’s mayoral candidacy.
Brad Hoylman, GLID’s immediate past president, said the organizing efforts by candidates vying for the endorsement were appropriate, noting that Stringer out-hustled Lopez in the race. The mayoral endorsement, he said, reflected has “the club’s strong feelings in favor of Gifford Miller who has a record that would back up that up.”
Sklarz, who said the size of the victories last week surprised her, expressed regret that she did not make time during the endorsement meeting to allow candidates or surrogates to make last minute appeals to the members.
“I think that before any votes are cast every candidate should be heard,” Sklarz said. “And that didn’t happen due to my inexperience and I regret that.”
GLID made endorsements in several City Council races where there will be no incumbent, supporting Rosie Mendez in the Second District on the Lower East Side, Dan Garodnick in the Fourth District on the East Side, Jessica Lappin, in the Fifth District on the East Side, Melissa Mark Viverito in the Eighth District uptown and Inez Dickens in the Ninth District uptown. The club endorsed Eve Rachel Markowich for surrogate court.