As readers of the blog know, this Tuesday voters in Queens' 30th District (covering Ridgewood, Glendale and Middle Village) will elect for someone to replace disgraced Republican Councilmember Dennis Gallagher in a special election.
Readers also know that my friend Charles Ober is vying for the seat as a Democrat and an openly gay candidate in what is considered to be a conservative district. He has already been the focus of a vile homophobic and anonymous letter writing campaign to dissuade voters from voting in his favor.
Being gay, of course, does not automatically qualify you for the city council, but Charlie has certainly worked hard as a community leader in Queens for decades and he has certainly earned his right to vie for the seat. As a friend, I might be biased in my support, but some less biased observers also think he is the best candidate among the contenders.
The New York Times editorial board, for one, endorsed Ober yesterday:
Charles Ober [is] a financial executive and community activist. The fact that Mr. Ober is openly gay has drawn attention because of the district’s conservative leanings. But more important are his deep roots in the community and the years he has spent engaging his neighbors on problems like prostitution and graffiti. His energy and civic engagement would be a valuable addition in the City Council.By all accounts the leading candidate is Democrat Elizabeth Crowley, the cousin of Congressman Joe Crowley, who happens to be the Queens Democratic Party boss. She has also shown not to be all that gay-friendly.
Back in April, Azi Paybarah of the New York Observer noted that Ober had won the endorsement of the Stonewall Democratic Club - the largest LGBT political club in the city - and that Crowley did not even show up at the endorsement meeting.
This in itself does not make her unfriendly to gays but more telling was her campaign's response when those anti-gay letters began to appear in voter's mailing boxes: The Crowley camp not only failed to repudiate the letters but insinuated that the Ober campaign might have made them up (On May 1st, Crowley campaign manager Michael Reich told the New York Daily News "It looks like they manufactured an issue and tried to get press on it").
Considering these developments and the fact that Ober might be poised to become the first openly gay candidate from Queens to be elected to the city council you might think that the only gay Democratic club in the borough might give him a ringing endorsement.
Alas, you might be wrong.
Gay City News reported that the Lesbian & Gay Democratic Club of Queens voted 19-0 in favor of endorsing Crowley over Ober. This despite the fact that Ober showed up at the endorsement meeting and completed a candidate's questionnaire and - big surprise! - Crowley did neither ("Gay Council Bid in Queens," May 15, 2008).
Pauline Park, also a friend, put it this way "It's really hypocritical and extraordinary that they would not endorse a qualified gay candidate especially when they endorsed a candidate who has no apparent qualification for public office at all except that she's the cousin of the county boss."
Then last week Crowley met with the editorial board of the Queens Tribune and came out against same-sex marriage ("Gay Dems' pick in Queens Opposes Gay Marriage," May 29, 2008).
This played into the paper's endorsement on Thursday which says, in part:
Charles Ober, a longtime civic and Democratic activist in his Ridgewood community who served the LGBT community for the past decade as the board president of the Queens Pride House, is a thoughtful candidate unafraid to tell voters how he feels on critical issues, regardless of the way the wind is blowing through any particular audience.A spokesperson for the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens indicated that the club's endorsement was still secure in Crowley's hand. "It's surprising because she did send a representative to the club and she showed interest in getting our endorsement," he said, "I'm not going to try to minimize that."
He also added that "It doesn't make Charlie Ober any better of a candidate; we're not comfortable with Ober's relationship to our club," indicating that their endorsement (or lack of one) speaks to animosity against Ober and is not necessarily based on merit.
If you are someone who can cast a vote this Tuesday in the 30th district in Queens, I urge you to pull the lever for Ober. Show that Queens can elect a Councilmember based on his or her ability to serve the 30th District and not on who the Democratic Party boss - or the Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club of Queens - tells you to vote for.
- The Gay Tammany Hall of Queens (The Visible Vote, June 2, 208)
- Homophobic campaign literature emerges in NYC council race (May 1, 2008) - includes VIDEO
- Charles Ober runs for City Council (March 21, 2008)