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All in a (Broward) night: GOP takes up a gay marriage while (mostly) Dems hold LGBT town hall. Where does an R politician in a D district go?


Broward’s lone Republican County Commissioner Chip LaMarca spoke at the LGBT Town Hall in Wilton Manors Monday night -- missing fireworkers about gay marriage a few miles away at the Broward Republican Executive Committee meeting.

LaMarca said he didn’t know that BREC -- a group he chaired a few years ago -- planned to vote about whether to remove their secretary for her pro-gay marriage stance. (The group overwhelmingly backed Cara Pavalock -- hat tip Broward Politics.) Earlier this year, BREC voted in social conservative Tom Truex but that appeared to be for reasons unrelated to gay marriage.

We caught up with LaMarca to ask why he went to the town hall -- also attended by his Democratic opponent Ken Keechl, the county’s first openly gay mayor who LaMarca ousted in 2010.

“It was a community event in my district,” said LaMarca, who is running for re-election in a left-leaning eastern Broward district in 2014. “Though I don’t have Wilton Manors (in my district anymore) I have a significant gay population in Oakland Park and Fort Lauderdale. I wanted to stay up on the issues and hear from different people living there.”

During his short speech, LaMarca didn’t mention gay marriage (he told Naked Politics he supports civil unions and other protections but not gay marriage.) Instead, he told the group that he came to listen and made a nod to the importance of gay tourism and business in Broward.

“We want people to come here and spend their money on our destination. ... There is a climate we need to create for people to come here.”

Gay rights issues aren’t likely to win it or lose it for either candidate -- County Hall has long been pro-gay rights and that won’t change. Support in the gay community helped Keechl win in 2006, but so did his strategy to bash incumbent Republican County Commissioner Jim Scott for his involvement in a controversial development plan. (And the Democratic wave that year helped too.) Keechl lost four years later after he was criticized for rampant campaign spending (and a GOP wave helped the underfunded LaMarca).

This time LaMarca has the fundraising advantage: he has raised about $94,000 while Keechl raised $26,000. The key factor for both sides will be turnout -- Broward has had very low turnout in non-presidential elections in recent years.