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June 14, 2010

More Expensive Failures for NOM in D.C.

As previously noted, the mis-named National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is trying to end marriage equality in D.C. by any means they can. Their campaign seeks to force a ballot measure to end marriages by same-sex couples in the District. Although the polls overwhelmingly show that D.C. citizens support same-sex marriage, ballot measures in 30 states have stripped away marriage equality. If they can change D.C. law to allow a popular vote on a minority's rights, they believe that a scare campaign--similar to those in California and Maine--will be enough to cause D.C.'s voters to enshrine discrimination in the law.

NOM first lobbied to force a referendum last year on the marriage recognition law; a referendum this year on the marriage equality law; and an initiative to make marriage only between one mane and one woman. In each case the Board of Elections and Ethics found that their measures were improper as they would violate rights under the Human Rights Act. NOM went to court and has so far lost 6 times. The current appeal is pending, but NOM is unlikely to succeed.

NOM has lobbied the U.S. Congress to force a ballot measure in D.C. and limit self-rule, but so far those efforts have come to nothing.

NOM is starting to get desperate. Now they are working to back anti-gay candidates running against the pro-gay and pro-same-sex marriage incumbents and front runners. Sadly for NOM, the incumbents are all favored to win re-election, and all of the serious contenders are pro-marriage equality. They are backing just four fringe candidates.

In the Mayoral race, Mayor Fenty is running for re-election. He enthusiastically signed the marriage bill into law. His main challenger is Council Chairman Vince Gray, you voted for the bill and has been a strong supporter. NOM's candidate is Leo Alexander, an advocate for limiting civil liberties for everyone. NOM has given Alexander $1,950 in donations.

NOM does not have a candidate for the Council Chair. Both leading candidates, Kwame Brown and Vincent Orange are in favor of marriage equality.

NOM also lacks a candidate in the At-Large Council Democratic primary race. Incumbent Phil Mendelson is the Councilmember most responsible for marriage equality in the District. His only serious opponent is Clarke Ray, who is gay.

NOM is backing Rev. Anthony Motley as an independent in the At-Large race, essentially running against the marriage bill's author David Catania. Catania is gay, and considered safe for re-election. Motley has received $1900 from NOM.

NOM also supports two other long-shot candidates in Wards 5 and 6. Delano Hunter running in Ward 5 has received $450 from NOM. Kelvin Robinson last week dropped out of the At-Large race and switched to the Ward 6 race. He has not had a campaign finance filing as a result, so we don't know what he has recieved from NOM. Hunter has a remote, outside shot at winning. Robinson has no chance.

NOM is doing what it can to shine up these candidates. They paid local ANC Commissioner and lawsuit plaintiff, Bob King, $61,000 to influence seniors in opposing the Councilmembers who voted for the marriage bill and are up for re-election, and Mayor Fenty who signed it.

The D.C. Democratic Party held a straw poll on Saturday, June 12 at their convention. Paid NOM workers were out in force to hand out literature. One supporting their candidates and the other opposing the incumbents.

I had the pleasure of going to the convention to collect nominating petition signatures for Councilmember Mendelson and got to see NOM at work. Most were lack-luster, perhaps due to heat. One group were across the street, in the shade of the trees where they were unlikely to run into anyone attending the convention. Another worker was shouting into a phone about some sort of relationship trouble, oblivious to the people walking up to the convention.

The NOM workers mostly had on matching t-shirts, but a few had lovely polo shirts with embroidered NOM logos. Two younger men walked by after just seeing some of the NOM workers. I overhead one say to the other, "They have same-sex marriage on their shirts, so I assume they're for it."

As I walked past a group of workers they saw my Mendelson campaign t-shirt and asked to sign his nominating petitions. When I ask for the literature, they were slow to offer it. The older man said, "oh we aren't supporting these people, other than Motley."

The NOM workers, perhaps 20, were not particularly effective. Nor do I suspect was their literature. What was marginally effective was Bob King's breakfast for senior citizens and the five buses that took them to the convention to vote. It appeared that the buses were each half empty.

The results of the straw poll were not helpful to NOM. They lost in all three races. (Motley is an independent so he was not in the Democratic party poll.) Alexander got 75 votes, or 7.7% of the vote.

Hunter did a bit better with 94 votes or 40.9% in Ward 5. Robinson received 32 votes or 35.6% in Ward 6. Only voters in those Wards were able to vote for those candidates.

Assuming that only people from Wards 5 and 6 were voting for NOM's candidates, that would be 126 people. Alexander still only got 75 votes, or only 59.5% of the people who were otherwise voting for the NOM candidates. Presumably there were a few from other Wards as well, who would lower the percentage. Even people fed, bused in, and lectured on who to vote for didn't think enough of Leo Alexander to vote for him.

NOM didn't get a big bang for the buck. Counting only the $60,900 they spent on Bob King--there were probably other expenses--they only got a maximum of 126 votes. That is $483.33 per vote, which a lot of money for no wins at all.

Bob King; Maryland minister and leader of the anti-marriage efforts in D.C., Harry Jackson; and NOM's Brian Brown were all at the convention. I wonder how it feels for them to lose at every turn. NOM did not issue a press statement on this loss.


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I imagine Hunter and Robinson did get some votes from people other than the ones NOM bused in (though no doubt Alexander did too). If residents of Ward 5 didn't like Thomas for some reason, then they'd likely vote for Hunter as the most prominent challenger. In Ward 6, people who didn't like Wells would vote for Robinson since he was the only alternative.

And while 75 votes for Alexander seems low, it's not so bad when compared with 190 for Fenty.

While NOM likes to tout the many state-wide elections they have won they don't seem to acknowledge that DC is a city. In fact where they have had elections the rural areas vote against LGBT rights but they do not generally carry the urban areas. Kelvin Robinson's switch from a city-wide to a ward election is very telling.

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