Gay San Diego Q&A with Carl DeMaio: LGBT mayoral candidate

Councilmember discusses support; recognizes "opportunity and obligation" to community

(Editor's note: This interview was originally published HERE by SDGLN media partner Gay San Diego.)

Councilmember Carl DeMaio is the openly gay Republican candidate for San Diego mayor, and has repeatedly said he is running on a platform based on economic and fiscal issues. He has received much criticism from some in the LGBT community, and addresses this criticism as well as his run for mayor in this exclusive interview.

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  • Gay San Diego Q&A with Carl DeMaio: LGBT mayoral candidate

The questions were discussed and created by the editorial board of San Diego Community News Network (SDCNN), the parent organization of Gay San Diego, which includes Publisher David Mannis, Editor Anthony King and Editor Morgan M. Hurley.

Gay San Diego: According to your website, one of your “Policy Priorities” is identified as Open and Honest Government. How do you feel you accomplish this and could this be something that causes confusion among voters?

Carl DeMaio: I’ve proposed the strongest open government reforms in the nation for San Diego, which would give the public far more access to information on city decisions and finances.

By forging bipartisan partnerships, I have been able to get a number of open government reforms already enacted into law such as holding more accessible City Council meetings and requiring that city contracts be posted online.

Getting these reforms done is a good start, but much more needs to be done on open government. As Mayor I will lead by example and create the most open and transparent city government in the nation.

GSD: Your voting record as a City Councilmember is, overall, very supportive of the local LGBT community. Why do you think there is such a backlash?

CD: My City Council voting record on LGBT issues is the exact same as [Councilmember] Todd Gloria’s and I have always supported full equality. Despite that solid voting record, there are a handful of vocal opponents who try to misrepresent the truth because their real issues have nothing to do with LGBT concerns and everything to do with opposing my fiscal reforms to the unsustainable city union contracts. It’s unfortunate that these individuals have more loyalty to organized labor union agendas than to issues of LGBT pride and equality.

GSD: What are some of the local LGBT initiatives that you have supported?

CD: I have supported City Council efforts to urge the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” approve the Harvey Milk street naming, and approve the Hillcrest Pride Flag project. In addition, I supported the Equal Benefits Ordinance and funding for our LGBT community service groups.

GSD: Mayor Jerry Sanders has been an outspoken leader on the issue of marriage equality since publicly changing his position while running for re-election in 2007. Sanders, also a Republican, changed his views despite the potential backlash. It did not affect him getting reelected. As a gay man, will you be an outspoken leader on the issue of marriage equality if elected the mayor of San Diego?

CD: I support marriage equality – and have been clear and consistent on that as an elected official.

GSD: Mayor Sanders is also one of the 200-plus mayors nationwide that are part of the bipartisan Mayors for the Freedom to Marry. If elected, will you join this bipartisan group whether or not you are outspoken on the issue?

CD: When I’m elected Mayor, I will be one of the highest-ranking LGBT officials in the nation – and the highest-ranking Republican LGBT official. While my focus will be on fiscal and economic reform here in San Diego, I also recognize the opportunity and obligation to serve as a role model for the LGBT community. We’re currently evaluating several organizations and efforts to define the best way for me to serve as a role model.

GSD: What is your stance on Proposition 8? If it eventually gets repealed by the Supreme Court, do you think you would marry while in public office?

CD: I oppose Prop 8 and always have. My partner Johnathan [Hale] and I have talked about our future plans and we will make any decision based on a timing that is right for us.

GSD: You marched proudly, hand-in-hand with your partner during the recent Pride Parade. Does being openly gay cause you any problems with your conservative supporters, many of who are deemed by the general public as anti-gay? If so, how?

CD: With rare exception, it really has not been much of an issue. Some of my conservative supporters clearly have different views on LGBT issues than I do, but we respectfully agree to disagree. My campaign is about fiscal reform, restoring city services and infrastructure, and creating jobs. Those issues are what unite us, and that’s why they are supporting my candidacy for mayor.

GSD: Some in the local LGBT community have been almost obsessive in their campaigns against you, creating negative websites, booing you at events and burning up social media. A few recently organized a group to “turn your back on DeMaio” at the recent LGBT Pride parade, because they say you have turned your back on the community. How did this make you feel? What would you like to say to those who feel you have turned your back on them?

CD: It really has not been a big deal to me, particularly because we’re talking about a small but vocal group. Furthermore, their real issues have nothing to do with LGBT concerns and everything to do with opposing my fiscal reforms to the unsustainable city union contracts. Sadly, these individuals have more loyalty to organized labor union agendas than to issues of LGBT pride and equality.

GSD: During the Stonewall Rally on the Friday of Pride weekend, directly under the pole that would soon hold the large rainbow flag to fly year round and a block away from Harvey Milk Street, you stood on a platform with people who have openly castigated you. Some say Pride is about standing up for wrongs against the LGBT community, and those who chose to boo and turn their backs on you say it was most appropriate to do so at Pride. Others were upset about the stance taken against you during the Pride events, saying we should put politics aside and celebrate our LGBT accomplishments together. How did you feel overall about what transpired?

CD: I was just thrilled that we got the Pride Flag Project and the street renaming done. It was a historic moment on many levels, but mostly because we accomplished these projects with relatively little opposition.

As for those who chose to boo and turn their backs during the parade, I respect their viewpoints and feel that they have the right to show their political feelings as they wish. Whether they end up supporting me or not in the upcoming election, I will still reach out to them and listen to them as mayor, in the hopes of finding common ground on issues that can move our city forward in the coming years.

GSD: The same group of people tried to tie you – through your partner – to the “lilygate” debacle, convincing your opponent to jump on the bandwagon when he used the rumors against you and even suggest your partner’s actions were “criminal.” How do you think this impacted the campaign positively and negatively?

CD: It was certainly a bizarre move by my opponent to fabricate a criminal accusation when the facts so easily refuted [my partner]. Fortunately, the media took him to task for his reckless actions. In the end, it may be a positive development because some of the same people who fabricated that lie are the same who accuse me of being anti-LGBT. If the public looks at those claims as they did the “lilygate” accusations, they will find that my voting record on equality issues is the exact same as Todd Gloria’s and the claims of the opponents are patently false.

GSD: You have repeatedly stated you are running on a fiscal reform platform and not addressing social issues, but once you become mayor, isn’t it true you will be called upon often to speak to, or support, those same social issues? How do you plan to balance them?

CD: I’ll always take a balanced approach. My top priority is fixing city finances, restoring services, repairing our roads and getting San Diegans back to work with job creation. Obviously some social issues do come into play even in city government, and when they do I will step up and lead as I consistently have in the past.

Morgan M. Hurley is Contributing Editor of SDGLN, Editor of San Diego Downtown News and Assistant Editor of Gay San Diego and San Diego Uptown News.

(Gay San Diego editor’s note: For Part One of SDCNN’s exclusive interview with mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio, pick up the September edition of San Diego Downtown News [Vol. 13, Issue 9] or read it online.

As a matter of full disclosure, SDGLN Publisher Johnathan Hale has a personal relationship with Carl DeMaio. Their relationship in no way impacts the editorial decisions made by Ken Williams, SDGLN Editor in Chief, and does not influence our political coverage. Williams can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter or at (877) 727-5446, x713.

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