Tag Archives: nicole lefavour

Lesbian Democrat challenging U.S. rep. must defy history

In seven elections, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson secured 1.1 million Idaho residents’ votes to send him to Congress. His Democratic rivals? Fewer than 500,000.

Only once did Simpson win less than 62 percent, his inaugural 1998 run when he beat former Democratic Congressman Richard Stallings. On average, Simpson wins by 36 percentage points with Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District voters.

Confronted with these numbers, Simpson’s Democratic rival, Nicole LeFavour, a four-term state lawmaker from Boise, offers her own numbers to underpin a stubborn optimism about Nov. 6.

She has 11 paid staffers to reach voters. She’s made 30 trips to eastern Idaho, trekking door-to-door in hardcore Republican neighborhoods. Singer Carole King has given two concerts to energize her supporters – and financiers who have chipped in more than $300,000. With field offices in Boise, Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Twin Falls, LeFavour says she’s reaching more voters than any Idaho Democrat ever.

Forget numbers that say Mike Simpson is a shoo-in for an eighth trip to Washington, D.C.; LeFavour contends her 2012 campaign is a different animal than the seven that failed to beat or unseat Simpson over the last 14 years.

“How many of them were sitting state senators who had spent 20 years on the ground working with people, every day?” she said. “We’ve been talking to thousands of them. No one has ever done that in this congressional district.”

On paper, however, Simpson is the candidate to beat: A Republican in a state where 81 percent of the Legislature is GOP.

He’s outraised LeFavour, banking $1.1 million.

And he’s running in a district that includes eastern Idaho and eastern Boise that hasn’t elected a Democrat in 22 years – Stallings in 1990 – in a year when Idaho favorite Mitt Romney is on the GOP presidential ticket. Idaho Republicans are energized.

“Sen. LeFavour has a steep hill to climb, running against a popular incumbent in a heavily Republican district,” said David Adler, head of Boise State University’s Andrus Center for Public Policy. “What compounds the difficulty for Nicole is that, on a number of economic issues, Congressman Simpson has been an advocate of programs that appear to be centrist.”

Simpson, for instance, has been among a bipartisan lawmaker coalition that urge a broad compromise combining cuts with new revenue to trim the $16 trillion national debt by a quarter.

LeFavour, meanwhile, casts Simpson as an extremist lurking beneath a moderate veneer, barely concealing her outrage at his votes against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 that bolstered wage protections for women and for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s austere budget when it cleared the House in March 2012.

The spending package pushed by Ryan, now Romney’s vice presidential pick, foresaw changes to Medicare that LeFavour argues would hurt seniors.

She favors restoring extended federal unemployment benefits; Simpson doesn’t, wondering where the money is going to come amid trillion-plus annual budget deficits.

“Look at his voting record,” LeFavour said. “People expected him to stand up for them and against that kind of cruelty.”

LeFavour is an earnest crusader, born in Colorado but raised up in Idaho’s rural Custer County. She’s Idaho’s first openly-gay state lawmaker.

Simpson is an unapologetic jokester, a Mormon who drinks coffee with Bailey’s on cold, rainy days and who quit dentistry for politics.

The 62-year-old Simpson traded his House speaker post in Idaho’s Capitol in the 1990s for his current job, where since 2010 he’s led the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee that sets funding for the U.S. Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, a regular target of his budget barbs.

Simpson contends the Lilly Ledbetter law allows women claiming pay discrimination to wait for too long before lodging a complaint, but added his vote doesn’t conflict with his conviction that women deserve equal pay for equal work. His wife, Kathy Simpson, has worked for 42 years, he said.

“The idea that I don’t care about her being paid equally is just patently absurd,” he said.

And Simpson said his support of Ryan’s Medicare voucher proposal underscores his commitment to paring budget deficits, insisting it takes political courage to challenge Medicare’s status quo.

“It’s the third rail of politics. You touch it, you die,” he said. “But somebody has got to be stepping up and saying, ‘We’ve got to reform this program.’ “

LeFavour hopes an often-overlooked constituency – Hispanic and Latino voters in the 2nd Congressional District’s agricultural communities – turns out in greater numbers than ever to help her end Simpson’s run in Washington, D.C. Three LeFavour staffers are bilingual.

Even if the numbers don’t work out in her favor this time, she says they may provide guidance for her future.

“If I get 40 percent plus of the vote, I would certainly consider that a potential reason to run again,” LeFavour said.

Record number of gays run for Congress

Of the four openly gay members of Congress, the two longest-serving stalwarts are vacating their seats. Instead of fretting, their activist admirers are excited about a record number of gays vying to win seats in the next Congress – and to make history in the process.

When the oaths of office are taken in January, Congress could have its first openly gay Asian-American, Mark Takano of California; its first openly bisexual member, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona; and its first openly gay senator, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

In all, eight openly gay candidates are running as major-party nominees for the House of Representatives, the most ever, including the two incumbents who are favored in their races – Democrats Jared Polis of Colorado and David Cicilline of Rhode Island. There’s one gay Republican in the group, Richard Tisei, who is waging a competitive campaign for a House seat from Massachusetts.

A common denominator in all the races: Neither the gay candidates nor their rivals are stressing sexual orientation, and the oft-heard refrain is, “It’s not an issue.” If anti-gay innuendo does surface from lower echelons of a campaign, there are disavowals – even conservative candidates these days think twice about being depicted as biased against gays and lesbians.

“People know that bigotry is bad politics,” said Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton who is trying to oust one-term Republican Nan Hayworth from New York’s 18th District in the Hudson Valley.

Maloney, who’d be the first openly gay member of Congress from New York, has assailed Hayworth for not supporting federal recognition of same-sex marriage, but says voters are focused on economic and health care issues, not on gay rights.

“The voters in my district care more about why my opponent wants to end Medicare and defund Planned Parenthood than about who I love,” said Maloney, who is raising three children with his partner of 20 years.

The veterans departing from the House are Barney Frank, D-Mass., perhaps the most powerful gay in elective office who is retiring after 16 terms, and Baldwin, who is vacating her House seat after seven terms to run for the Senate. Recent polls show her running slightly ahead of her GOP opponent, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Thompson has not made an issue of Baldwin’s sexual orientation, and said it was “a mistake” for an aide to have sent emails with a link to a video of Baldwin dancing at a 2010 gay Pride festival.

Chuck Wolfe of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which recruits and supports gay political candidates, said Thompson’s response epitomized the changed atmosphere in which Republicans are less inclined to use sexual orientation as a wedge issue and anti-gay attacks are becoming taboo.

“We still have them happen in local races, but in the federal races we hope we’ll get through them without seeing these kind of attacks,” Wolfe said.

Baldwin’s decision to run for the Senate prompted another openly gay Democrat, state legislator Mark Pocan, to enter the race to fill her seat from the 2nd District based in Madison, the liberal home to the University of Wisconsin. Pocan won a four-way Democratic primary in August and is a heavy favorite to win on Nov. 6.

In Arizona, Sinema and Republican Vernon Parker are squaring off in a newly reconfigured district in the Phoenix area that both parties view as winnable.

Sinema, 36, has been a staunch gay-rights advocate during eight years in the Legislature and is at ease acknowledging her bisexuality. But she responded sharply during her primary campaign after being told that her Democratic rival had suggested that a bisexual couldn’t win the general election.

“It’s true that I’m openly bisexual,” she told the Washington Blade. “I have been my entire adult life, and I’ve managed to win four elections, and, meanwhile, he’s lost two, so perhaps it was being straight that was the problem here.”

Like Sinema, Mark Takano is considered a strong candidate in a newly redrawn and competitive district – the 41st District that includes Riverside, Calif. The GOP nominee, John Tavaglione, hasn’t made an issue of Takano’s sexuality

Takano, a 51-year-old high school teacher, ran losing races for Congress in 1992 and again in 1994, when he was routed by a GOP rival who sent anti-Takano mailers in shades of pink after Takano’s sexual orientation became an issue.

“That became front-page news,” Takano said. “Today, it’s just an interesting part of my background as opposed to being a sensational story… People look back at what happened 18 years ago and say, ‘I can’t believe we ever did those things.’”

In Massachusetts, Tisei, a longtime state legislator, is running a vigorous campaign to unseat Democratic Rep. John Tierney. The National Republican Congressional Committee has included Tisei in its “Young Gun” program highlighting promising candidates.

There have been openly gay Republicans in Congress before – but they came out after being elected. Tisei would be the first Republican to enter Congress as an openly gay candidate.

Tisei is at odds with Republican Party orthodoxy on key social issues. He supports the Massachusetts law legalizing same-sex marriage and favors abortion rights. But he depicts himself as a fiscal conservative, and says the GOP’s stance on social issues will moderate faster if people like himself work from inside.

“I’ve been very welcomed and encouraged by the national party leaders,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this year. “As for issues of equality, you’ll never have true equality until you have advocates on both sides of the aisle.”

The other House races involving openly gay candidates:

– In Colorado, Polis is an overwhelmingly favorite to win re-election in the 2nd District that includes his liberal hometown of Boulder. He and his partner are raising a young son, which makes Polis the only gay member of Congress who’s a parent.

– In Rhode Island, Cicilline, a former mayor of Providence, is seeking a second term in the House but faces a tough challenge from Republican Brendan Doherty, a former head of the state police. During the Democratic primary campaign, there were brief flare-ups over complaints that supporters of Cicilline’s rival, Anthony Gemma, were engaging in anti-gay innuendo.

– In Idaho, Democratic state Sen. Nicole Lefavour – the first openly gay legislator ever in her state – is running against incumbent Republican Mike Simpson in the 2nd District. Of all the openly gay congressional candidates this year, she probably faces the longest odds, given that Simpson won re-election in 2010 with 69 percent of the vote.

In New York, the race between Maloney and Hayworth is distinctive in part because Hayworth has an openly gay son and is one of only three Republicans in the congressional gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender caucus.

Have political dynamics evolved so thoroughly that being openly gay might now be an asset in the race?

“I don’t know I’d go that far,” Maloney said. “But there is a real power in being yourself. When you’re not afraid, when you live your life with honesty and integrity, it makes you a better parent, a better colleague, a better friend and a better candidate.”

On the Web…

The Victory Fund: http://www.victoryfund.org/home 


Lesbian candidate running for Congress in Idaho

Openly lesbian state Sen. Nicole LeFavour is running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Idaho’s second congressional district.

There are two other Democrats in the primary. The winner will face incumbent Republican Mike Simpson in a district that includes northeast Boise, Mountain Home, Twin Falls, Ketchum, Burley, Pocatello and Idaho Falls.

LeFavour announced in a Twitter post, “I’m running for Congress because I love Idaho and we can do better.” 

She’ll be leaving the state legislature after eight years.

“This is a hard time in our nation and sadly I feel Congress is not doing all it could to set our economy right,” LeFavour said. “Idaho families want to feel secure about retirement, about their jobs and the opportunities their children will have. I understand that so well. We have a job to do as a nation and we have no time for partisan struggles.”

She’s running as a Democrat because, she said, “Democrats care about working people and families, we believe in communities and that people can pull together to overcome great obstacles. We believe that a strong public education system and a more affordable college education are the foundations of our own American dreams.”

LeFavour, a former teacher, gained statewide name recognition for opposing legislation to cut support for teachers paying for mandatory online classes.

She also worked as a ranger for the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho.

“I grew up on a ranch which was once a pretty modest place,” LeFavour said. “We took in guests and raised chickens, milked cows, made butter, bread, bacon and raised a lot of vegetables. My sister waited tables in the restaurant and I worked in the kitchen. I’ve always worked hard.”

“Working for the forest service I saw how the federal government works,” she added. “It creates a lot of important jobs for rural communities protecting our drinking water from pollution, our forests from devastating fires and making sure Idaho still has amazing places to hunt and fish.”

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Tea Party activist gets booted

Republican Debra Miller may yet win an Idaho Senate seat, but she hasn’t won any popularity contests on her job in Boise.

Miller, a Tea Party activist, is running against incumbent Nicole LeFavour, the state’s only openly gay lawmaker, in November. Miller, on her campaign website, said, “I believe the Lord wants me to run for office and that HIS blessing is on me for taking a stand against the tyranny being imposed on us within our own society.”

In late August, the city of Boise canceled Miller’s lease to operate her Boise Trolley Tours from the city-owned Julia Davis Park because of complaints that the trolley operator screamed and cursed at patrons.

Miller said she’s been unfairly targeted, probably by a “likely gay activist” with an underlying agenda, according to the Idaho Statesman newspaper.

The city’s memo to Miller said she was “rude, profane and disrespectful of park patrons and city employees.”