Thunder and lighting rocked the offices as Equality Utah PAC announced their endorsement of 47 candidates for office, including 46 Democrats and one Republican in seven counties across the state.
As candidates were notified that they were or were not chosen for endorsement by the human rights political action committee, long-time allies were outraged when their name was not among them or that their opponents were also endorsed.
The outrage was so bad that a list that had gone live Wednesday morning on the group’s web site was pulled back down even as QSaltLake was doing a story on the endorsements. As our story went live, EU leaders asked for it to be pulled down because of “errors” in the list.
“We want to acknowledge that in this year’s endorsement process, we made mistakes,” Equality Utah leaders said in a statement. “In particular, we regret that we did not interview previously endorsed candidates, and that we considered issuing dual endorsements. Additionally, after our interviews ended, we learned new information about the positions that some candidates took on our issues. As a result, our process initially produced endorsement recommendations that did not reflect all of Equality Utah PAC’s commitments and our community’s values.”
One of the three races where a dual endorsement was made on the first list was for Salt Lake County District Attorney. The group endorsed both Democratic incumbent Sim Gill, this year’s recipient for Ally of the Year at Equality Utah’s Allies Dinner, and his Republican challenger, Steve Nelson. Gill has been an ardent supporter of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage. He has been the keynote speaker of many LGBT-related events, including the annual SAGE Awards Brunch, OUTreach Resource Center’s September Soiree, and Plan-B Theatre Company’s BANNED. He was Utah Pride’s 2014 Pete Suazo Political Action Award winner. Nelson, on the other hand, does not address LGBT rights or same-sex marriage on his site, nor his Facebook page. He did say in an interview with Salt City Throwdown that he would have done exactly as Gill did after Judge Shelby’s ruling on same-sex marriage and that he has gay friends and family members.
Gill supporters were outraged that the staunch LGBT ally’s opponent would also be endorsed on such thin grounds.
A sitting Utah House member had also been endorsed, even though his web site noted, “There are a number of traditional values I hold but don’t list as my primary issues. Among these are my belief in marriage between a man and a woman, the right to life…” Equality Utah’s endorsement process, however, does not currently include same-sex marriage as a question for consideration.
After members of the community stormed the EU offices and phone lines, group leaders re-huddled to determine the right courses of action to take, and the list was reworked. They also determined that apologies were necessary.
“We have already apologized to each of the candidates affected by these mistakes — and now we would like to apologize to you, our community, on behalf of everyone at Equality Utah PAC,” the statement continued. “We recognize that you rely upon our endorsements, and we hold ourselves to the highest standards of integrity, fairness, and accountability in our PAC endorsement process. We appreciate your feedback, and we commit ourselves to making further improvements to our PAC endorsement process next year. To that end, we have committed to assembling a diverse group of community members and leaders to help assess and strengthen our process before we begin the endorsement cycle again.”
Bill Both, who is running for the Utah State House District 22 in Magna, said he was “tremendously happy” for being the only Republican to be endorsed by the PAC.
“I’m very happy with the endorsement,” Both said. “I’m friendly to the LGBT community and count some of my dearest friends in the community. I seriously didn’t think I was going to get an endorsement, since I was running against a Democrat.”
How the PAC decides
Equality Utah PAC emails all candidates in Utah seeking office, introducing Equality Utah and the Equality Utah PAC and explains the endorsement process. They encourage candidates to respond to an attached survey in order to seek endorsement. Most questions are yes/no, though a candidate imay choose to provide short responses to further clarify their position.
Candidates who answer yes to just over half of the questions were granted interviews with the PAC’s interview committee. Candidates who did not answer yes to half the questions were not eligible for endorsement.
- Do you support the amendment of existing non-discrimination statute to include the characteristics of sexual orientation and gender identity?
- Do you support same-sex partners having the legal ability to inherit each other’s property, receive each other’s retirement, make medical decisions on behalf of one another, and be guaranteed visitation in a crisis situation?
- Do you support the passage of legislation that would extend public accommodations protections for sexual orientation and gender identity?
- Would you support LGBT specific training within your local law enforcement departments?
- Do you support same-sex partners having the legal ability to adopt their children in Utah?
- Do you support passage of legislation that will extend health insurance benefits to transgender employees and/or their family members, if an employer provides health insurance to its employees?
- Do you support the passage of a municipal ordinance preventing discrimination in housing and employment that includes sexual orientation and gender identity?
- Do you support the passage of a municipal ordinance preventing discrimination in public accommodations that include sexual orientation and gender identity?
- Do you support a local ordinance within your municipality that will extend health insurance benefits to transgender employees (and their family members) who are employees of your municipality?
The interview committee makes a recommendation on each candidate after an interview, and the Equality Utah PAC staff then makes formal recommendations to the EU PAC Board for final decisions, which are then ratified by the Equality Utah Board of Directors.
“These candidates demonstrated through our rigorous process that they stand with us on our issues and will work to forge the way for LGBT equality in our communities and in our state,” leaders said in a statement.
The endorsement list:
US House of Representatives
Donna McAleer | US House 1
Luz Robles | US House 2
Alain Balmanno | House 32
Angela Romero | House 26
Bill Both | House 22
Brian King | House 28
Camille Neider | House 7
Carol Spackman-Moss | House 37
Charles Stormont | Attorney General
Christine Passey | House 44
Chrystal Butterfield | House 38
Clare Collard | Senate 12
Colleen Bliss | House 41
Dorothy Engelman | House 74
Eric Irvine | House 10
Gene Davis | Senate 3
Glenn Wright | House 54
Jani Iwamoto | Senate 4
Jim Dabakis | Senate 2
Joel Briscoe | House 25
Justin Miller | House 40
Joseph Marerro | House 12
Karen Kwan | House 34
Karen Mayne | Senate 5
Kathryn Gustafson | Senate 9
Larry Wiley | House 31
Liz Muniz House 33
Marie Poulson | House 46
Mark Wheatley | House 35
Mat Wenzel | Senate 18
Michael D. Lee | House 30
Michele Weeks | Senate 11
Nick DeLand | House 42
Patrice Arent | House 36
Rebecca Chavez-Houck | House 24
Rick Pollock | House 21
Sandra Hollins | House 23
Steve Olsen | House 9
Susan Marques Booth | House 45
Arlyn Bradshaw | SLCO Council District 1
Jeff Hatch | SLCO Auditor
Jenny Wilson | SLCO At-Large
Jim Winder | SLCO Sherriff
Mary Bishop | SLCO Recorder
Mike Fife | SLCO Treasurer
Sim Gill | SLCO District Attorney
Zacharia Levine | Grand County Clerk/Auditor