LGBTQ groups are balking at campaign literature distributed to voters with the intent of discouraging them from voting for Sylvia Swayne, who is seeking to become the first transgender person elected to public office in Alabama.
Swayne, who is running in the October 24 Democratic primary runoff for the Alabama House of Representatives District 55 seat — which covers parts of downtown Birmingham and its western suburbs — is the first transgender person to run for the state legislature.
The mailer, which does not contain information about which campaign or entity paid for it, compares Swayne with her runoff opponent, Travis Hendrix, a sergeant with the Birmingham Police Department and a school resource officer.
The mailer presents Hendrix as a born-and-bred local who knows the community intimately and Swayne as an outsider who moved to Birmingham from Montgomery.
The mailer also emphasizes, at different points, Swayne’s gender identity, noting that she has already made history as the first transgender candidate to seek office in the state, and alleging that she is “unknown to voters.”
The mailer also describes Swayne as “born to be a white man and lives as a white woman/transgender.” District 55 is a majority-Black district; Hendrix is Black while Swayne is white.
LGBTQ+ Victory Fund condemned the mailer, noting it violates election law because it does not contain a disclaimer or statement explaining who’s behind it and why they’re promoting Hendrix.
“The illegal literature distributed to voters against trans candidate Sylvia Swayne is hateful,” Sean Meloy, the vice president of political programs at LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, said in a statement. “It’s clear these transphobes would rather resort to shady politicking and low blows than an honest debate about issues.”
LPAC, the political action committee seeking to elect LGBTQ women to office, which endorsed Swayne’s bid for office, also denounced the attack mailers.
“We call on Travis Hendrix to publicly renounce this attack and on the state of Alabama to investigate this illegal dark money assault,” Lisa Turner, executive director of LPAC, said in a statement. “There s no place in campaign discourse for hateful attacks that put the safety of a candidate at risk.”
A representative for the Hendrix campaign was not immediately available for comment.
The attack against Swayne comes amid controversy within the Alabama Democratic Party.
Four years ago, the Democratic National Committee directed the Alabama Democratic Party to update its bylaws to provide representation of more minorities, not just Black voters, in party affairs.
Those changes led to the creation of minority caucuses to ensure greater representation of young voters, LGBTQ people, Latinos, and other groups.
But in May, the state party abolished all those caucuses, except for the Black Caucus, with proponents, including Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Randy Kelley, arguing that groups like youth and LGBTQ voters are already proportionately represented, making the additional minority caucuses unnecessary, according to The Associated Press.
Critics also alleged that party leadership attempted to impose fees on at-large diversity caucus members, including LGBTQ members, without notifying them beforehand or informing them that failure to pay would lead to their removal from the party.
The Democratic National Committee has since directed the Alabama Democratic Party to pass new bylaws — with certain safeguards to ensure diversity constituencies are given an equal opportunity to elect at-large members of their choice — by February 1, 2024.
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