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Queer issues prove difficult for Democratic hopeful

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“It’s come to the point where you almost can’t run unless you can cause people to salivate and whip each other with big sticks. You almost have to be a rock star to get the kind of fever you need to survive in American politics.”

– Hunter S. Thompson

The Utah Democrats are at it again. With November getting closer and closer by the minute, the Republicans are duking it out for the presidential nomination, and here at home the governor’s position is up for grabs. The Democrats appear to have hand-selected the textbook candidate for the job, but has he earned the support of the queers?

With a few insignificant intraparty challenges, Gov. Gary Herbert is likely to slide to an impressive win in the delegation and land his party’s nomination for his current seat.

On the other side of the ticket, the Democrats chose a war veteran with an astonishing record. He owns real estate companies that help provide affordable housing for the impoverished. He’s a faithful husband and father of five children. He’s even white and Mormon, for god’s sake! The man has leadership experience in the Army, he’s been on numerous small business administration boards and you just can’t help but like the guy. With an enormous smile and an infectious grin, he simply commands attention. On paper, the only thing holding back Peter Cooke from packing his bags for the governor’s mansion is the big ‘D’ that will be next to his name on the ballots.

Even amidst multiple scandals, Herbert destroyed Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon in 2010 with more than 70 percent of the vote. Again on paper, the race seemed impossible for Herbert to win; he was embroiled in several political scandals, he’s a college dropout and presents himself to the public about as well as a damp rag. Corroon was the popular mayor of Utah’s largest county. He received a bachelor’s degree from Carnegie-Mellon University and a master’s degree from New York University. Despite the differences, the race was lost well before November and Corroon had no chance.

Attending the press conference where Cooke officially announced his candidacy, the air was electric. With heartfelt speeches and rousing chants, the Democrats nearly instilled faith in one of their biggest skeptics: me.

But while trying to uncover Cooke’s stances on allowing gay couples to adopt and protecting queers in the workplace and housing, I was shocked by what I heard. Rather than making an all-inclusive stance concerning gay rights and how he needed the gays and lesbians to help him into office, his spokesperson denied any comment concerning second-parent adoptions. The spokesperson chose instead to tell me that Cooke took his religious affiliation to Mormonism very seriously and would speak only of his support of the nondiscrimination ordinances. He completely refused to comment on all other gay issues.

The logic behind skirting the issues is obvious: if he avoids tough subjects and taking, what in Utah may be viewed as extreme stances, he can appeal to more voters. But if he doesn’t stand a chance in November, no chance whatsoever, why does he care? Party insiders have informed me that he is extremely gay friendly and I have read statements made by Cooke in the past where he insinuated support of gay marriage. So, the only conclusion I am left with is that he is convinced that he can win, that there is a possibility that he’ll be selected by Utah voters to lead the state.

This only leaves me with one question: Do I want to support a candidate that thinks he can win only by avoiding the issues that are most important to me?

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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