Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hey! That Candidate's Gay!

In this week’s issue of the City Paper, Chris Potter has an article on local GLBT progress . I found his discussion of Bruce Kraus’ Primary Election win disturbing.

Potter writes: “…many voters probably voted for a gay candidate without realizing it… Kraus' own campaign Web site made no mention of it, [his homosexuality] relying instead on safer biographical detail like the fact that Kraus' mother "has been a member of Unite Here! Local 57 for over 25 years."

Potter goes on to say, “I'll admit that such selective disclosure troubled me a bit, too.”

I’ve worked on numerous local campaigns, being in Pittsburgh and publicizing connections to a union are definitely an advantage, one that every candidate seeks & promotes as widely as possible. For Potter to categorize Kraus’ use of his mother’s union membership as a “safer biographical detail” is incorrect, it minimalizes the impact union affiliation has on local voters. Kraus advertised his mother’s union affiliation as any other savvy candidate would & should.

Too bad Kraus couldn’t claim that either he or his mom worked in a steel mill – that would’ve been perfect!

I don’t know why Potter feels the fact that Kraus didn’t somehow allude to the fact that he’s gay on his campaign website is troubling. The day when all candidates reference their sexual orientation on their campaign websites is the day I’ll call out Kraus for not doing the same.

And let me add that the incumbent, Koch, did his best to inform voters that Bruce is gay. The Sunday before the Primary Koch’s henchmen put fliers advising voters of Kraus’ sexual orientation on the windshields of Catholic Church attendees. I can only imagine that, during the previous months of the campaign, they engaged in similar activities.

Did Kraus win because he was gay? Did he win because voters didn’t know he was gay? Or did he win because voters were fed up with the incompetent incumbent’s inability to provide them with basic services? Maybe, just maybe, Kraus won because he convinced voters that he could do a better job of it than Koch.

GLBT Pittsburghers are the ones who really need to know that Kraus is gay and they do know that. Why is this important? Because, as Pittsburgh’s first openly gay elected official, Bruce is living proof of the viability of a gay candidate’s campaign. I believe and hope his experience will encourage more members of the GLBT community to seek elected office.


  1. Gloria --

    First off, that column ran a couple weeks ago; a new column out this week (about Ravenstahl's police promotions) isn't posting for some reason. I'll look into that after I finish up here.

    In fact, about two weeks ago I had an exchange about the column with ANOTHER member of the Women's Blogging Society. That exchange is printed on our Web site's comments section, directly beneath the column itself. If anyone is interested, they can check out the story and that exchange. (It's at

    I hope people will do that, in fact, since the column has a larger context that you say almost nothing about. The column's overall point is that there have been several positive political developments for the glbt community recently, including Kraus' victory.

    But as I say in both the story itself and in my exchange with Sue, my enthusiasm about the Kraus win is tempered somewhat ... because I expect many of those Pittsburgh voters simply didn't know anything about his sexuality.

    As you say, Kraus is under no obligation to disclose his sexual orientation. But my point was this: It'd be an even MORE positive sign if Kraus had actively campaigned -- and won -- citing his sexuality as openly he did his mother's union ties.

    As to those ties, I don't think we disagree AT ALL on this score: Of COURSE he wants to cite those for political advantage. I mean, give me credit for a LITTLE bit of sense. Or read the comment I posted two weeks ago, in which I note "obviously, no Pittsburgh politician ever got hurt by portraying him/herself as a friend to labor."

    Finally, I disagree with your statement that "GLBT Pittsburghers are the ones who really need to know that Kraus is gay." This sentiment is, in fact, a big part of what I meant when I said Kraus' "selective disclosure troubled me a bit."

    If electing glbt officials is important to having a more open, tolerant city, isn't that something we ALL have a stake in? Do you really want to argue that inclusiveness only benefits the included? While this site is directed at women specifically, isn't the blogosphere AS A WHOLE better off for having it? Isn't government AS A WHOLE better off if we elect more female candidates? "Run Baby Run" has argued just that in the past.

    I'm straight, so of course I don't have the same immediate stake in this glbt voters do. Even so, I certainly see the value in having glbt people on council, and lurking in your statement is that straight voters like me can't be trusted to come to that conclusion on their own. Maybe that's a politically wise calculation, but it's a little disheartening anyway. And it sounds like a less-than-expansive view of what "openly gay means."

    After all, if glbt voters are the only ones who really need to know a candidate's orientation, what difference does it make if a candidate is "openly gay" or not? Local GLBT voters ALREADY know of other gay officeholders. In fact, those politicians presumably won on exactly the platform you suggest Kraus won on -- by convincing voters they could do the job better than the other candidates. If I took your statement at face value, Kraus' win wouldn't be so history-making after all.

    Obviously, Kraus is more open than those other politicians, and that's why my column includes his win as a step forward. Like you, I hope it encourages other glbt candidates to run in the future. But I ALSO hope those candidates will take a step beyond the Kraus campaign -- being "openly gay" to the extent that they cite their orientation as an asset before ALL voters. Because when a campaign like that can succeed in Pittsburgh, I think we'll REALLY have something.

    Anyway, thanks for the forum. And just so you know, you're always welcome to come to the City Paper site and attach your critique to the story itself, where anyone can see it.

    -- Chris Potter

  2. OK, the new column is up online, though you may have to clear your cache to see it. Have at it, if you wish, and again, feel free to post your criticisms on the site itself.

    It's at:

    -- Chris Potter

  3. "Because, as Pittsburgh’s first openly gay elected official, Bruce is living proof of the viability of a gay candidate’s campaign. I believe and hope his experience will encourage more members of the GLBT community to seek elected office."

    I believe his experience, if examined, will encourage more GLBT candidates to seek office ... and to do so using the game plan of selective disclosure, and subtly begging the media's indulgence.

    If the media in general were not spoiling for high council turnover, it would have been interesting to see the outcome of reporting his sexuality on March 16 the way they finally did on May 16.

    I think Pittsburgh should be proud to have its first gay councilman, but Pittsburgh really has no standing to pat itself on the back for having made it so.

  4. "GLBT Pittsburghers are the ones who really need to know that Kraus is gay and they do know that."

    I disagree. Perhaps our community has more of a stake in Bruce's success, but the whole community benefits from a more diverse City Council.

    Chris and I have different definitions of being "openly gay," but we all seem to agree that this election bodes well for Pittsburgh in general.

    Onward to the election of an openly gay woman ....

  5. Kraus is NOT elected and can't be Pittsburgh's first openly gay official yet.

    No way.

    Kraus has only be nominated by the D party to go into the general election.

    That's it.

  6. Mr Kraus's website also hid other equally-relevant details about himself, such as:

    -- whether he is right or left handed;

    -- boxers or briefs;

    -- paper or plastic;

    -- the amperage rating of his home's electrical system, and;

    -- his feelings on whether the tradtional latin mass should be made more widely available across different parishes.

    I think I will finally know that we have finally reached acceptance of GLTB folks when we finally stop assuming that this label is the most meaningful thing about them.

    As heterosexual, I don't feel the need to identify with Jim Motznik or Darlene Harris simply because they heterosexual just like I am. I recognize that their sexual preference has nothing to do with the positions they take. Knowing that they are heterosexual tells me absolutely nothing about how I should expect them to vote. And someday, maybe we can reach the stage where a candidate's homosexuality is viewed the same way.

  7. Okay okay okay okay. I agree, there's no reason to put his sexual orientation on his website, et cetera. But does this sound familiar to anybody?

    Q: So I hear he's an interior designer?

    A: Well, he's really more of an "installer." You know, drills, wrenches, power-saws...

    Or how about this:

    Q: So I heard that he's gay?

    A: That's not what this campaign is about ...

  8. "I recognize that their sexual preference has nothing to do with the positions they take."

    That is the best sentence I've read in weeks. Sexual preference has EVERYTHING to do with positions being taken. That's why it is distinct from sexual orientation which is about identity, not sexual preferences.

    The fact that you confused the two, my dear Admiral, is why we can rest assured the LGBT community has a long way to go before reaching acceptance. If you cannot validate that being a lesbian is my orientation, not my preference ... we need to sit down to talk.

    Further, it is laughable to claim that the privileges afforded to heterosexual members of our society doesn't in some way impact their political identities and, hence, their votes. The very fact that we assume by default that people are straight until proven otherwise speaks volumes about how we expect them to vote (and how they may in fact vote to maintain said perception).

    Do you really think they aren't going to vote to protect that privilege? Let's talk after the Presidential primaries ...