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Florida gay leaders split in some races over endorsement process

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Leaders of four gay political groups in South Florida have sent a joint letter to Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith expressing “displeasure and frustration with Equality Florida’s endorsement process and unilateral engagement in local political races.”

At particular issue: Several 2010 races in which Equality Florida, a statewide group based in St. Petersburg, endorsed South Florida candidates not supported by the local groups.

The South Florida activists all say they’re bothered that Equality Florida leaders don’t consult them before making endorsements.

Rand Hoch of Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance said his group has had a long-standing disagreement with Equality Florida over endorsements.

“We've been doing this since 1988. We've had a process set up all along,” Hoch said. “Why are they even bothering to do something and not confer with us. It shows to elected officials that we don't have our acts together in the gay community.”

The letter, e-mailed to Smith on Tuesday morning, is co-signed by C.J. Ortuño, executive director of SAVE Dade; Herb Sosa of Unity Coalition | Coalicion Unida; and Ryan Terrell, founder of Broward County Council of Gay-Straight Alliances. It also is signed by Brandon Young, president of the Leon County Gay-Straight Alliance Council.

Equality Florida Deputy Director Stratton Pollitzer said his group does regularly confer with local activists.

“We work closely with local leaders and organizations across the state and share information,” Pollitzer said in an e-mail to The Miami Herald. “We also work with our members and leadership volunteers in each community.  It is always wise for us to talk with local organizers and for them to talk with us to ensure we know as much as possible about candidates seeking the support of the LGBT community. We have been in communication with organizations included in this letter, and as our PAC Board prepares to make it's final decisions for the primary we will be taking their endorsements and input into consideration.”

Said Ortuño: “I commend them for the work they do in Hillsborough [County]. But why spend resources in a county when there is a sophisticated group here doing the same work?”

Sosa said the Equality Florida letter “isn’t a declaration of war.”

Still, said Sosa, several “candidates definitely felt disenfranchised and said, ‘What's going on?’’’

Terrell said the Broward Gay-Straight Alliances “were concerned with Equality Florida endorsements because they didn't have the courtesy to discuss those important races with gay and lesbian students and teachers, and in some cases went against the recommendations those students and teachers made.”

Despite the fuss, most of the gay groups’ endorsements mirror each other. Equality Florida split from the local groups in only a handful of races:

  • House District 86
    Lori Berman: Equality Florida
    Carole Kay: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • House District 112
    Sandra Ruiz: Equality Florida
    Johnny G. Farias: Unity Coalition
  • Senate District 35
    Kevin Burns: Equality Florida
    Gwen Margolis: SAVE Dade
  • Broward County School Board District 6
    Phyllis Hope: Equality Florida
    Laurie Rich Levinson: Broward County Council of Gay-Straight Alliances

In addition, SAVE Dade and Unity Coalition have disagreed in these races:

  • Miami-Dade County Commission District 8
    Eugene Flinn: Unity Coalition
    Annette Taddeo: Equality Florida, SAVE Dade
  • Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Group 62
    Monica Gordo: SAVE Dade
    Robert Kuntz: Unity Coalition

Here’s the complete list (as of July 30) of statewide and South Florida endorsements:

  • U.S. Senate
    Kendrick Meek: SAVE Dade
  • U.S. Congress District 16
    Ed Tautiva: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • U.S. Congress District 19
    Ted Deutch: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • U.S. Congress District 22
    Ron Klein: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • U.S. Congress District 23
    Alcee Hastings: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • U.S. Congress District 17
    Scott Galvin: Unity Coalition, SAVE Dade, Broward County Council of Gay-Straight Alliances
  • U.S. Congress District 18
    Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: Unity Coalition
  • U.S. Congress District 25
    Joe Garcia: SAVE Dade
  • Florida Governor
    Alex Sink: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • Florida Attorney General
    Dan Gelber: Equality Florida, Unity Coalition, SAVE Dade, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (Co-endorsement)
    Dave Aronberg: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (Co-endorsement)
  • Florida Chief Financial Officer
    Jeffrey Atwater: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • Florida Commissioner of Agriculture
    Scott Maddox: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • House District 81
    Adam Fetterman: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • House District 83
    Mark Marciano: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • House District 84
    Mackenson "Mack" Bernard: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • House District 85
    Joseph Abruzzo: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • House District 86
    Carole Kay: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
    Lori Berman: Equality Florida
  • House District 88
    Mark Pafford: Equality Florida, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • House District 90
    Irv Slosberg: Equality Florida, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • House District 92
    Justin Flippen: Equality Florida, Unity Coalition
  • House District 104
    Matthew Vinnor Tisdol: SAVE Dade
  • House District 109
    Bess McElroy: SAVE Dade
  • House District 112
    Sandra Ruiz: Equality Florida
    Johnny G. Farias: Unity Coalition
  • House District 114
    Millie Herrera: Equality Florida, Unity Coalition, SAVE Dade
  • House District 117
    Lisa Lesperance: Unity Coalition
  • House District 118
    Dwight Bullard: Equality Florida, SAVE Dade
  • Senate District 25
    Ellyn Bogdanoff (GOP Primary Only): Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • Senate District 27
    Sharon Merchant (GOP Primary Only): Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • Senate District 27
    Kevin Rader (Democratic Primary Only): Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance 
  • Senate District 35
    Gwen Margolis: SAVE Dade
    Kevin Burns: Equality Florida
  • Miami-Dade County Commission District 8
    Annette Taddeo: Equality Florida, SAVE Dade
    Eugene Flinn: Unity Coalition
  • Miami-Dade County Commission District 10
    Mimi Planas: Unity Coalition, SAVE Dade
  • Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Group 11
    Flora Seff: SAVE Dade
  • Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Group 45
    Samantha Ruiz-Cohen: SAVE Dade
  • Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Group 62
    Monica Gordo: SAVE Dade
    Robert Kuntz: Unity Coalition
  • Broward County Commission District 4
    Ken Keechl: Equality Florida, Broward County Council of Gay-Straight Alliances
  • Broward County Commission District 6
    Sue Gunzburger: Equality Florida
  • Broward County School Board District 2
    Patti Good: Broward County Council of Gay-Straight Alliances
  • Broward County School Board District 4
    Dave Thomas: Broward County Council of Gay-Straight Alliances
  • Broward County School Board District 6
    Laurie Rich Levinson: Broward County Council of Gay-Straight Alliances
    Phyllis Hope: Equality Florida
  • Broward County School Board District 8
    Jennifer Gottlieb: Equality Florida, Broward County Council of Gay-Straight Alliances
  • Oakland Park City Commission District 4
    John Adornato III: Equality Florida
  • Palm Beach County Commission, District 2
    Paulette Burdick: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • Palm Beach County Commission, District 6
    Michael E. Jackson: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • Palm Beach County Commission, District 7
    Priscilla Taylor: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • Port of Palm Beach Commission, Group 4
    Blair Ciklin: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • Palm Beach School Board, District 3
    William G. "Bill" Graham: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (Co-Endorsement)
    Tom Whatley: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (Co-Endorsement)
  • Palm Beach School Board, District 4
    Jennifer Prior Brown: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (Co-Endorsement)
    John E. McGovern: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (Co-Endorsement)
  • Palm Beach School Board, District 6
    Marcia Andrews: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
  • Palm Beach School Board, District 7
    Debra L. Robinson: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance

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much to do aboout nothing. They didn't agree on 4 races? Big damn deal.

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