Campaign Goes After Opponents of Gay Marriage
February 25, 2010
New York Times
Jeremy W. Peters
Angered by the defeat last year of a bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry, a group of well-financed gay rights advocates has started a political action committee to take aim aggressively at state senators who have opposed same-sex marriage.
The first person the committee will single out is Hiram Monserrate, the Queens Democrat who has filed as a candidate in a special election to reclaim the seat he lost after the Senate expelled him this month.
The campaign against Mr. Monserrate, which will initially rely on the Internet and direct mail to reach voters but may expand to phone banks and e-mail, could exceed a cost of $100,000 — a significant amount for a legislative special election that is less than three weeks away.
In total, the political action committee, called Fight Back New York, is prepared to raise and spend in the high six figures range in the State Senate races this year, according to people involved with the committee.
Financing and organization will come, in part, from some of the most politically sophisticated and financially powerful gay rights advocates in the country. Tim Gill, a philanthropist and former software developer who has backed many gay rights initiatives nationwide, is a major player, along with some of his top associates and donors to his causes.
“Politicians who deny gays and lesbians basic equality should be thrown out of office, starting with convicted criminal Hiram Monserrate,” said Bill Smith, an adviser to the committee and deputy executive director of the Gill Action Fund, the political arm of Mr. Gill’s foundation, which is based in Denver.
The committee will start going after Mr. Monserrate, who was convicted of assaulting his female companion in a confrontation that left her requiring more than 20 stitches, bymailing fliers this week to voters in his district. The flier shows still frames of a surveillance video that shows him dragging his companion, Karla Giraldo, through the hallway of his apartment building in Jackson Heights, Queens. He was acquitted of a felony assault charge by a judge, who convicted him of misdemeanor assault.
“He brutally assaulted a woman and tried to cover up his crime,” the flier says. “Now he has the nerve to run again. Many of us have voted for Hiram before. But we cannot vote for him again.”
In the three weeks that remain before the election, Fight Back New York expects to send out at least five different fliers, upwards of 100,000 pieces of mail. The district’s population is around 300,000, but voter turnout in special elections is typically quite low.
Mr. Monserrate, who would run as an independent, is facing Assemblyman Jose Peralta, a Democrat supported by the party and many leading Democrats.
The political action committee’s Web site, in both English and Spanish, takes an even harsher line against Mr. Monserrate. It is scheduled to go live on Thursday and describes him in bold print as a “criminal” and “incompetent.” The site will also be used as a fund-raising tool to solicit and accept donations.
The Gill Action Fund and many of its donors were significant players in the 2008 legislative elections, helping to funnel around $1 million into local races in anticipation of same-sex marriage legislation. Senate Democrats picked up two seats, capturing the majority for the first time in a generation, but that was not enough to prevent the chamber from rejecting same-sex marriage.
While Fight Back New York has not decided which senators it will single out this fall, the group’s organizers plan to focus on races where they believe the incumbent has a challenger who strongly supports gay rights.
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