Stonewall Democrats Illinois endorsed a number of candidates—including Cook County Board presidential candidate Forrest Claypool and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner candidate Debra Shore—after hearing several of them speak on March 1 at Lakeview's Ann Sather restaurant.
The organization invited various candidates to speak to the LGBT community; in addition, the candidates answered questions submitted by audience members. Among the individuals who appeared were Sylvester Baker, Jr., who is running for Cook County Sheriff; Claypool; Shore and Patricia Horton, candidates for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commission; Ruben Zamora, a candidate for the 14th Congressional District; and State Treasurer opponents Paul Mangieri and Alexi Giannoulias.
Mangieri spent the five minutes allotted to each speaker to talk about his background, which included serving in the military, attending law school and being a parent to 12. He also stressed that he brings leadership skills to the office, as opposed to financial management skills. During his question-and-answer session, he painted himself as a solid ally of the LGBT community, saying that he supports same-sex marriage as well as civil unions.
Giannoulias, who hails from a banking family, played up his experience managing funds, said that the treasurer is the state's banker and that Illinois needs someone with financial experience. Giannoulias added that, while Mangieri might be qualified to be an attorney general, the state treasurer's office would not be appropriate for him. He also mentioned how his 'good friend and mentor, Barack Obama,' inspired him to run. However, Giannoulias also took a brief moment to state that Mangieri is not the friend of the community he projects himself to be: 'When he filled out a VoteSmart questionnaire, he said that he was against same-sex civil unions and that he was pro-life.'
Claypool drew laughs by saying that, if he is elected board president, he 'would not rename Cook County Hospital Forrest Claypool Hospital'—a poke at his opponent, incumbent president John Stroger. Claypool added that he has several aims, including the halting of property and sales tax increases as well as establishing a healthcare system with 'a safety net without holes.'
Horton, a minister, talked about her North Side roots as well as her involvement in such organizations as a women's employment project. She stated that her passion for educating people about the importance of clean water was ignited by a visit to Bangladesh, where she saw families bathe in water contaminated by animals and waste. Shore, who has an extensive environmental background and is the only candidate endorsed by the Sierra Club, said that she is 'uniquely qualified to serve'; she also mentioned that she started Chicago Wilderness magazine and that she literally went out into the field to take part in habitat restoration. She concluded by offering a combination of traits that she feels sets her apart from the crowd: being qualified, gay and Jewish. During the Q&A session, Shore urged people to conduct 'personal audits' in order to save water while Horton emphasized education.
Baker said that 'the choice is clear,' emphasizing that he has substantially more law enforcement experience ( 22 years ) than his opponents and that he is more than educationally qualified, having one Master's degree while currently obtaining another. Baker said that his vision consists of several parts, including having a specialized department. In that vein, he stated that, among other things, he would establish a liaison from the sheriff's department to the LGBT community. When asked if he had read Stonewall, a recently released national report that focused on police treatment of LGBT individuals, he conceded that he had not. However, he added that he would not tolerate any use of 'unnecessary force' on anyone.
Perhaps the most charismatic candidate was the one who traveled the farthest to reach the forum. Zamora was immediately applauded when he said that he 'is the one taking on Dennis Hastert,' the current Speaker of the House. Hoping to represent a 125-mile-long region that is bordered by DeKalb, Kendall and Kane counties, Zamora said that he is fighting for fully funded education ( through college ) , job creation and universal healthcare in an effort to right what he feels he 'can't take any longer.' When asked if he thought immigration officials should consider long-term same-sex relationships when considering residency applications, Zamora said that he advocated no discrimination whatsoever, adding that his father was from Mexico and his mother was from Texas. 'If he hadn't crossed over, they wouldn't have met,' he said, eliciting laughs.
Immediately after the candidate forum, the organization held a closed endorsement meeting that only its members were to attend.
Those endorsed are Claypool, Shore, Zamora, 3rd Congressional District candidate John Sullivan and Cook County Sheriff candidate Tom Dart. Sullivan and Dart were not present at the forum.
Those who the Democrats rated as 'highly qualified' were Mangieri, Giannoulias and Christine Cegelis, a 6th Congressional District candidate. She, like Sullivan and Dart, was not at the meeting. ( Highly qualified candidates are defined by the organization as 'those who evidence a high level of support for GLBT issues, but who did not receive the 60 percent super-majority required for endorsement,' according to the group's press release. However, Rick Ingram, president of the organization, told Windy City Times that they had to have at least a majority of the votes. ) Baker and Horton were the only candidates present not to receive an endorsement or high rating.
Ingram also stated that there were two aspects that factored into candidates being endorsed or highly rated. 'It came down to the candidates' questionnaires and the members' knowledge of candidates' records,' he said.
Anti-Gay Group Launches Anti-Topinka Web Site
By Andrew Davis
Peter LaBarbera of the Illinois Family Institute and other individuals have launched a Web site aimed at Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka's stances and actions concerning abortion and gay rights.
StopTopinka.com, a site aimed squarely at conservative voters, states, among other things, that Topinka's 'pro-abortion and pro-homosexual positions are in keeping with the Democratic Party Platform—and opposed to the national Republican Party platform to which she would seem to owe allegiance.' As 'evidence' of her actions, the site mentions Topinka's participation in Chicago's Gay Pride parades as well support of the construction of the new Center on Halsted, which the site says runs a 'dangerous' youth program.
Topinka is one of several GOP candidates vying for the governor's seat. The primary elections are March 21.