Florida’s gays, lesbians achieve office despite setbacks



Two steps forward, one step back. That’s how you could characterize Florida’s strides to elect openly gay men and women to public office. Just as the tally kept by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute was nearing two dozen, the number moved back again.

Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe, a Democrat first elected in 2010, suffered a bruising loss this month in a run-off election for his second term. Former City Commissioner Ed Braddy, a Republican, defeated him by almost 10 percent of the vote.

In a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a margin of more than two to one, it’s worth looking at why this happened.

Less than a month before the election, Lowe was arrested at 2:30 a.m. for drunk driving after he crashed his car into a pole in Alachua County. Though his blood alcohol level was within Florida’s legal limit, after spending a night in jail Lowe returned to work without comment.

Gainesville might be a forgiving town. After all, the Princeton Review routinely ranks the University of Florida among its Top Ten Party Schools. Braddy was arrested for DUI in 2006 when he was a Gainesville city commissioner. Instead, the Gainesville Sun criticized Lowe by saying he reinforced an ongoing impression of arrogance by refusing to openly discuss his arrest and own up to his mistakes. It wasn’t the only time the campaign was sidetracked from a discussion of the issues.

Alachua County Democratic Black Caucus members spoke out against Lowe when he twice missed candidate debates sponsored by the chapter. The second time, Lowe attended a fundraiser hosted by the local NAACP president — an event he said had already been scheduled. Braddy spoke to the caucus for an hour next to an empty chair.

Gainesville’s elections are nonpartisan, but party affiliation provides insight into a candidate’s policy views. As a city commissioner, Braddy voted against the creation of a citywide domestic partnership registry and the inclusion of gender identity and expression in the city nondiscrimination law. He led the failed attempt in 2009 to repeal nondiscrimination protections for Gainesville’s LGBT community.

Despite Gainesville’s relatively small size, with about 125,000 residents, the national LGBT magazine The Advocate ranked Gainesville the 11th gayest city in the United States. Yet despite everything Lowe had going for him, it wasn’t enough to overcome the negative. It is worth noting that he narrowly won his first election by 42 votes.

Gainesville can rest assured its municipal decisions will remain progressive. The mayor is one of seven votes on the City Commission, with no more decision-making power than any other member. After the new mayor takes office, five of the seven votes will be cast by Democrats. Under Gainesville’s weak mayor system, the city manager and general manager of Gainesville Regional Utilities run city government.

With a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population estimated at more than 600,000 people, second in size only to California, Florida will continue to elect more openly gay men and women. Just last fall state Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, became the first openly gay state lawmaker, followed closely by state Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando. The future election of additional LGBT candidates will provide for much-needed diversity of thought among our public officials and we should look forward to it.

Formerly a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times and Orlando Sentinel, Susan Clary is a freelance writer living in Winter Park.

© Florida Voices

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald



    Taxi drivers are Lyft and Uber drivers, too

    Complaining about taxis is a Miami sport. Most Miamians have a story about a late or no-show taxi, or about the worn-out and dirty conditions of the cabs themselves, or about our “bad attitude.” But what are the actual conditions for us drivers?



    What Vladimir Putin and Raúl Castro want from each other

    Vladimir Putin sharply made it clear that his country does not plan to restart electronic intelligence operations at the “Lourdes” base near Havana. That was predictable. Getting in bed with the Castros again makes no sense at all.



    Amendment’s ‘caregiver’ clause sneaky approach to legalizing marijuana

    One of Florida’s foremost cancer hospitals takes the job of caregiver so seriously, it holds a Caregiver Academy for those caring for patients following stem-cell transplants. Caring for someone who is very ill is a huge responsibility that often involves addressing basic needs such as bathing, eating, continence, dressing, toileting and transferring.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category