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Gay-baiting in the HD76 runoff

I had not paid much attention to the Democratic primary runoff in El Paso’s HD76, which is the only Democratic legislative runoff on the ballot. I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other about the incumbent, Rep. Norma Chavez, and all I really knew up till now about her challenger, Naomi Gonzalez, was that she’s received a lot of money from Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which isn’t the sort of thing that makes me want to support someone. However, as noted in that Texas Trib story and also reported here, Rep. Chavez’s campaign has taken an unacceptable turn:

State Rep. Norma Chávez is employing a risky, negative strategy, publicly saying challenger Naomi Gonzalez is a lesbian and should come out.

Other Democrats, including El Paso County party chairman, Danny Anchondo, dislike Chávez’s use of sexual orientation as a campaign sword.

Anchondo said such tactics hurt and divide the party, which has always focused on inclusion.

“If somebody is lesbian or gay, our arms are open to all these individuals,” Anchondo said. “All these people are part of the party, so I don’t understand why someone would be using those terms to attack somebody.”

Gonzalez does not respond to Chávez’s baiting about her sexual orientation, nor will she discuss it.

“This campaign is not about me,” Gonzalez said. “This is about Norma Chávez, and this is another desperate attempt on her part to distract from her own record.”

Chávez, though, said it is a valid talking point because it may affect policy decisions in the state Legislature about gay marriage.

She also brought it up because she felt that Gonzalez attacked motorcycle enthusiasts.

“I have accepted my biker community,” Chávez said. “She needs to accept her gay community.”

I have no idea what Rep. Chavez is getting at here, and apparently neither does she, as her subsequent statements about civil unions and regretting what she just said would indicate. I suppose she could have been claiming that Gonzalez was insufficiently supportive of gay rights, but her intent to vote for HJR6 in 2005 belies that even if you want to be charitable about the interpretation. No, I think that Equality Texas got it right in saying that “Any candidate who uses ‘gay-baiting’ as a campaign tactic cannot rightfully claim to support equality”. Shame on you, Rep. Chavez.

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One Comment

  1. Martha Griffin says:

    Norma Chavez is endorsed by Annie’s List. I can’t imagine they are thrilled about the gay-baiting.