Thursday, November 06, 2014

LGBT Support Split in Howard County Executive Race


Riding the red wave that splashed across the country and Maryland on November 4, former GOP State Senator Allan Kittleman stunned Democrat councilwoman Courtney Watson and her supporters in the race to succeed term-limited Ken Ulman as Howard County Executive. In doing so, Kittleman became only the second Republican to be elected to that office in the county’s history. 
Allan Kittleman with Carrie Evans during a fundraiser at Pride
Ulman lost his chance to be Lieutenant Governor as part of Anthony Brown’s failed bid to be Maryland’s first African-American governor. The 51.3 % to 48.6 % margin in the Kittleman-Watson contest was closer than the Larry Hogan margin over Brown in the county suggesting that Brown’s poor performance was a drag on Watson’s quest to be the county’s executive.
The race in Howard was distinguished by the fact that two strong LGBT advocates faced off against one another.  Although marriage equality and transgender non-discrimination were settled issues and were not the focus of the campaigns, each side tried to woo LGBT voters by touting their respective records. 
Watson’s campaign, for instance, held at least two LGBT-specific events.  Kittleman enlisted the support of Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, to boost his campaign.  Evans recorded a video extolling Kittleman’s accomplishments for LGBT equality.

Kittleman had been a vocal supporter of marriage equality in Maryland’s Senate the last two years the bill came up for votes.  He also vigorously campaigned to protect the law that was signed by Governor Martin O’Malley in 2012 when it was petitioned to referendum.   
In addition, Kittleman supported and voted for this year’s successful passage of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act (FAMA) that provided anti-discrimination protections in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit based on gender identity. Those actions, which cost Kittleman his position as the Senate’s Minority Leader because they bucked party dogma, did not go unnoticed by the LGBT community.

For her part, Watson, as councilwoman, played a significant role in getting a similar transgender non-discrimination measure passed in Howard County.  She took that success to Baltimore County to persuade wavering lawmakers, and it passed just a couple of months later.  Watson went to Annapolis two years in a row and testified on the statewide bill’s behalf during House committee hearings.
Through the years, both candidates had regularly appeared at PFLAG-Howard County events to demonstrate support for the county’s LGBT citizens. Most notable of these was a joint appearance at a PFLAG-sponsored forum in July.   In October both candidates addressed the crowd during a celebration held by PFLAG and Gender Rights Maryland on the effective date of FAMA.
Though no data are available as to how LGBT folks and allies voted during the election, it is clear that each camp can claim support from key LGBT leaders. 

“Allan Kittleman was a champion for LGBT issues over the last few years in the General Assembly, and I know that he will continue fighting for fairness and equality in his new role,” said Equality Maryland’s Carrie Evans.   #hocopolitics
Watson had a staunch advocate as well. “We’re concerned about ensuring continued improvement in our quality of life as well as bullying in schools, affordable housing, and public health,” said Byron Macfarlane, the county’s Register of Wills and the first open LGBT person to hold elective office in Howard. “I hope now that the election is over, the vagaries and generalities of the Kittleman campaign will give way to concrete plans to address these very real concerns. I congratulate him on his victory and hope that the LGBT community and the new county executive will have a productive working relationship in the years ahead.”

No comments: