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Two gay Republicans running for Congress secured the endorsement of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund Tuesday.
Richard Tisei of Massachusetts and Dan Innis of New Hampshire were among 35 candidates endorsed today by the bipartisan LGBT organization, which seeks to increase LGBT representation at the state and local level. Tisei served 26 years in the Massachusetts State Legislature and is again challenging Democratic Rep. John Tierny after narrowly losing to Tierny in 2012, 47.1 percent to 48.3 percent. Innis, a businessman and dean of the College of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire, is seeking to unseat Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District.
“Both Dan Innis and Richard Tisei have demonstrated outstanding leadership and are viewed as visionary leaders that are voices for their constituencies. We are proud to announce their endorsements today,” said Torey Carter, chief operating officer at the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, in a statement. “These two candidates have the potential to become the first out LGBT Republicans in Congress.”
Tisei and Innis are two of three gay Republicans vying for a seat in the House of Representatives. In California, Carl DeMaio, who served on the San Diego City Council, is seeking to unseat Democratic Rep. Scott Peters in California’s 52nd Congressional District. Although DeMaio has a strong chance of winning his race, Victory Fund did not indicate why he has not yet been endorsed.
Victory Fund came under fire in 2012 for its endorsement of Tisei, most notably from now former Rep. Barney Frank. Frank, a Democrat, said taking away seats from pro-LGBT lawmakers like Tierney — even if they were to go to gay Republicans — would do nothing to advance LGBT issues in that chamber.
“One of the biggest differences between the parties is on LGBT rights,” Frank told Metro Weekly at the time. “If the Republicans control the House we get nothing.”
An election of Tisei, Innis or DeMaio would be a historic first. No openly gay Republican has ever been elected to Congress, although two Republicans — former Reps. Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin and Jim Kolbe of Arizona — have come out while serving in Congress. All three candidates have done little to hide their same-sex partners or support for LGBT-rights during their campaigns, and supporters argue electing gay Republicans is critical to changing the GOP’s views on LGBT-rights from within.
“Their elections would shatter a glass ceiling for the Republican Party,” said Carter, “and further the dialogue within the GOP about LGBT issues.”
[Images: Dan Innis (left) and Richard Tisei. Credit: Screenshots via YouTube.]