The Steel City Stonewall Endorsement meeting was held Sunday afternoon on the Northshore. For a glimpse into “live” coverage, check out the hashtag PghGayPick. I was a little caught up in the 140 character frenzy because I wrote most of these tweets and can't interpret a few of them 🙂 Kudos to tweeps @Bram_R and @Maria_In_Pgh (who was doing double duty scribbling notes for the soon-to-be-published 2 Political Junkies blog post).
The event was packed, drawing 76 voting members including 19 new members. There were more than 100 people in attendance. The evidence shows that the Steel City endorsement has gained in prominence and import. It will be interesting to see how the organization changes over the next year in response to lessons learned from this endorsement experience.
The endorsements have been posted on the Steel City page, so check out that information. The event was quite significant both in who came (Congressman Mike Doyle, for example) and who didn't (Congressman Joe Sestak, for example). Sestak did not capture the endorsement which truly shocked many in attendance. I can't help but wonder if a personal appearance would have made a difference?
Another interesting turn of events was in the PA House District 20 (Don Walko's vacated seat). Adam Ravenstahl didn't show up, but was apparently expected. That was just a weird gaffe given that he expressed a desire to build a relationship with the LGBT community in his questionnaire.
Describe your familiarity with Pittsburgh's LGBT Community including any receptions, events, parades or other functions that you have attended that were sponsored by an LGBT organization.
I haven't had the opportunity to become involved in the LGBT Community, but I am eager to learn more and I will seek a working relationship with the Community.
This wasn't the best first step. Someone gifted me with his official name tag which I will enshrine in my political memorabilia box. Mark Purcell and Tim Tuinstra did show up and battled it out. I think Tim is more LGBT friendly, but Purcell did a bang up job driving home his support of repealing DADT and I think that's why he won the group's support— ironic that he won't be able to actually do anything about DADT in this office, but there ya have it.
The biggest stunner of the night was the endorsement in the Governor's race. Joe Hoeffel and Dan Onorato tied to each receive a “Highly Recommended” statement of support from the organization.
In the course of their speeches, Hoeffel affirmed his strong belief in full equality for the LGBT community and his commitment to progressive values. Onorato announced plans for the still forming Allegheny County Human Relations Commission to oversee the extension of domestic partner benefits to County employees. This is good news for Allegheny County which I will continue to follow.
I was disappointed in Onorato. He started off strong, laying out his accomplishments as Chief Executive. Then he just grew angrier and angrier about “the blogs” distorting his record and suggesting he take action on domestic partner benefits. The most disappointing moments were his 1) suggestion that Montgomery County has intentionally not passed its own human relations ordinance when he should be fully aware that they do not have a home rule charter and 2) completely blew the question on DOMA. He had no idea that Pennsylvania has a statewide DOMA in place and was unable to answer a question about supporting its repeal. His gay advisors did not prep him very well for the Q & A session.
Some have suggested that I am disproportionately hard on Onorato. I disagree. He's from my neck of the woods and I've been following these issues for the past several years. It is important that the folks in Central and Eastern Pennsylvania understand that we have a vibrant progressive community clamoring for equality and willing to work for it. If we don't hold our own elected officials accountable on those issues, we risk confirming the impression that we are a region defined by Darryl Metcalfe and Jane Orie. I want the rest of the Commonwealth to remember that we've elected Bruce Kraus, Dan Frankel, and Amanda Green. That we unelected Rick Santorum. Ms. blogger and longtime ally Jeanne Clark came to this meeting, for pete's sake. Some may believe Pittsburgh and Western PA are far behind Southeastern Pennsylvania's progressive community. I, for one, do not agree.
The growing weight of the Steel City endorsement is good news for the region and the statewide LGBTQ community. I've been very pleased that so many people have reached out to me since our “tweetfest” on Sunday, asking how they can get involved. This demonstrates that the social media project is a rousing success even in its infancy, but also proves that people get motivated around a range of issues — some were struck by the ascendency of the Ravenstahls, others by the movement on domestic partner benefits.
We will continue to disagree on the Governor's race and other issues. As I've learned more about the endorsement process for the Liberty City Democrats, I'm excited for the opportunity Steel City has to create forums for the dialogue to drive the endorsement process. The fact that so many people are reading the blogs and the tweets is positive news — people are paying attention. And that is a very important lesson to all candidates — the LGBTQ community, too, is paying attention.
Congratulations to Steel City for a successful, exciting endorsement meeting. Stay tuned …