Q-Notes examines the candidates — The last of a four-part series
by David Stout . Q-Notes staff
Over several issues we’re spotlighting the Democratic presidential candidates in preparation for primary season. (Our installments on the three best-polling candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards, can be read online at www.q-notes.com.) The first Democratic primary occurs in Iowa on Jan. 3. South Carolina holds the earliest in the South on Jan. 26. The North Carolina Democratic primary takes place May 6.
We have made an editorial decision to limit our coverage to the Democrats because, vis-à-vis LGBT issues, the leading Republican candidates range from woefully lacking to openly hostile, or they’re Rudy Giuliani, an Iraq war hawk. Either way, the GOP slate is a disappointment and not worthy of consideration in our opinion.
Q-Notes’ series on the hopefuls for the Democratic presidential nomination ends with mini-profiles of the four men trailing the Big Three in the polls. (Due to space limitations, we are not including candidate Mike Gravel, the former Alaska Senator who is polling around one percent.)
The quartet spotlighted here includes the candidate who supports full gay marriage rights, the candidate with arguably the most foreign policy experience, the candidate who was part of an historic wave of American liberalism and the candidate who thinks homosexuality is a choi…wait, what? no, scratch that! it’s not, it’s really not! I misunderstood the question…
Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. is the senior Senator from Delaware, currently in his sixth term. This is his second run for the Democratic nomination for president. His 1988 attempt ended over a tempest-in-a-teapot plagiarism scandal that was later debunked.
Biden was born in Pennsylvania in 1942. When he was 10, his family moved to Delaware, where he would remain through graduation from the University of Delaware in 1965. Remarkably, at this time he was only six years from the U.S. Senate. Biden graduated from Syracuse University College of Law in ’68, passed the Delaware Bar exam in ’69 and was elected to the Senate in ’72. He was 30 — the fifth-youngest U.S. Senator in history.
Biden has been a member of two powerful Senate committees since his arrival on Capitol Hill: the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on the Judiciary. In January, he began his second non-consecutive stint as chair of the former; he chaired the latter from 1987-1995.
After the September 11 attacks, Biden voted to support the George W. Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq and remove President Saddam Hussein. He had unsuccessfully pushed an earlier measure to exhaust diplomatic channels before deploying the military. He voted for the Patriot Act in 2001 and for its reauthorization last year.
As president, he says he would bring U.S. troops home from Iraq by 2008, after “Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis [are given] breathing room in their own regions.” His plan pledges to establish “a unified Iraq by federalizing it” with a central government.
Biden didn’t attend this summer’s HRC/Logo forum, an opportunity for the Democratic presidential hopefuls to discuss their views on LGBT issues. According to his official campaign website, he supports “re-examining federal laws, including the tax code, to ensure our national laws are not unfair to same-sex couples.” He also supports gay adoption rights, employment non-discrimination, hate crime protections for sexual orientation (gender identity is not addressed) and repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Christopher John Dodd is a second generation U.S. Senator from Willimantic, Conn. He was born in 1944 to Grace Mary Dodd and Sen. Thomas Dodd. The Dodd father lost his first run for the Senate in 1956 to Prescott Bush, father of President George H. W. Bush and grandfather of the current president.
After attending a Jesuit boys school in Maryland, Chris Dodd matriculated to Providence College, where he received a degree in English Literature in 1966. He spent the next two years in the Dominican Republic working with the Peace Corps. A stint in the U.S. Army Reserve followed until 1975. During his enlistment, he earned a law degree from the University of Louisville and was admitted to the Connecticut Bar.
In 1974, Dodd entered the U.S. House of Representatives as one of the “Watergate Babies,” a cadre of 54 young, liberal Democrats elected in the wake of Republican President Richard Nixon’s resignation in disgrace. He was reelected twice, then successfully campaigned for the U.S. Senate in 1980. He is currently in his fifth term and the only Senator from Connecticut to ever reach that distinction.
In 2002, Dodd voted in favor of the Iraq War Resolution. He also voted in favor of the Patriot Act and for its reauthorization. He has become a harsh critic of the Iraq conflict. He voted in May against reauthorizing funds for the war. When Congress failed to stop the president’s troop surge earlier this year, he was disdainful. “This was the House and the Senate at some of its worst,” he said.
Dodd also missed the HRC/Logo forum. He is on record with his support for civil unions, employment non-discrimination, immigration law reform and overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Dennis John Kucinich is a 61-year-old member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Voters in Ohio’s 10th district, which covers part of Cleveland, have elected the former mayor and city councilman to six consecutive terms.
Kucinich grew up poor — during the worst times his large working-class family lived out of their car — but he achieved political success early in life. Even before graduating from Case Western Reserve University in 1973, with a masters degree in speech and communication, he had already served a term on the Cleveland City Council.
After a couple of unsuccessful tries for the U.S. House, Kucinich, then 31, was elected Mayor of Cleveland in 1977. His time in office was marked by turmoil, with most of it fueled by his refusal to sell the city’s publicly owned electric utility, Muni-Light.
In response, banks that would have profited from the sale called the city’s debts and forced Cleveland into default. In a plot straight out of a thriller, the local mafia even hired a hitman to assassinate Kucinich during a Columbus Day parade. The attempt failed when the mayor had to be hospitalized prior to the event.
Kucinich’s political reputation was in tatters when he left office. For several years he moved in and out of Ohio while time proved that his most controversial decision had been a wise one. In 1994, with his esteem fully restored, he was elected to the state Senate; two years later, he was headed for Congress.
Today, Kucinich is the lone Democratic candidate in the race for president who did not vote for the Iraq War. He has likewise voted against every war funding bill, and also voted against the Patriot Act. Last month, he introduced a bill for impeachment proceedings against Vice President Dick Cheney. As a stalling tactic, House leadership directed the measure to the Judiciary Committee were it remains at press time.
In addition to these admirable stands, Kucinich is the only candidate who supports every major LGBT campaign issue including full marriage rights.
At the HRC/Logo event he said, “[Same-sex marriage] is really a question of whether you really believe in equality. When you understand what real equality is, you understand that people who love each other must have the opportunity to be able to express that in a way that is meaningful, and that the state should not be intervening against people, the state should be there on behalf of people, to make sure that that love has a chance to be facilitated.”
William Blaine “Bill” Richardson III has excelled in numerous public and appointed positions during his lengthy political career — ranging from Congressman to U.N Ambassador to the U.S. Cabinet (Secretary of Energy under President Clinton). He has received particular recognition for his outstanding job performance as the current Governor of New Mexico.
Richardson, 60, was elected governor in November 2002. From his first year in office he has pushed progressive economic policies to spur growth and investment. His reforms were specifically acknowledged by Forbes in 2006 when the magazine’s editors named Albuquerque, N.M., the best city in the U.S. for businesses and careers.
That same year, Richardson was reelected with the highest percentage of support of any gubernatorial vote in New Mexico history. In his second term he has signed into law the nation’s 12th medical marijuana law. He later told reporters that he didn’t care if it hurt his presidential chances because it was the right thing to do.
In his first legislative session the governor promoted and signed New Mexico’s first hate crimes law. He also signed a law extending civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. By executive order he extended access to health insurance and benefits to the domestic partners of state employees.
Earlier this year Richardson pushed the New Mexico Legislature to approve a domestic partnership bill but it lost by one vote. He has pledged to bring it back in the 2008 session and get it passed. Working with a coalition of advocates, he has successfully warded off a Defense of Marriage Act in New Mexico — one of only a handful of states without one. He also supports overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Given his track record, it’s obvious that Richardson is one of the good guys — which only made his appearance at the HRC/Logo forum all the more odd. When panelist Melissa Etheridge asked Richardson if being gay was a matter of choice or biology, he replied, “It’s a choice.” When prompted by the surprised celebrity to have a do-over, he reasserted the same answer. It didn’t add up somehow.
Within the hour, of course, Richardson’s panicked campaign was issuing “clarifications” of the governor’s position and fighting to right the ship. In an interview the following day with the LGBT blog Queerty, Richardson said it was all a misunderstanding.
“I just simply made a mistake. I misunderstood the question. My impression — I thought it was a tricky science question, where you put politics into science. I think the word Melissa used was ‘biological.’ Since I use ‘choice’ so much, I’m so committed to choice — a woman’s right to choose — I thought that was the appropriate answer. I was confused about the question.
“Also, I had flown all night from New Hampshire. I was a little tired, but there’s no excuse. I made a mistake. I think my record stands for itself. I think it’s the best record of all the candidates. That’s my answer.”