Central Valley activists take Devin Nunes to task
Nunes and most of the other U.S. House members with a 0 rating in the state — all Republicans — represent districts inside or bordering on California's Central Valley, a vast rural and agricultural region in the interior and eastern part of the state.
The region has traditionally elected conservative Republicans to Congress and to the California Legislature.
"The rabid homophobes come from rabid, red homophobic districts," said Mark Leno, a gay State Senator from San Francisco and longtime LGBT rights advocate. "They're going to get re-elected. So to waste time, energy and resources in those districts is just that, a waste," Leno told the Blade.
"You have to look at party registration where it's most possible for a Democrat to win, and that's what the Democrats are doing," he said.
The newly redrawn district includes precincts that voted overwhelmingly for Sen. John McCain in 2008, leading many observers to label the seat "safe" for Nunes.
But gay activist Jason Scott, a resident of Clovis, Calif., a small city that borders on the much larger City of Fresno, said he's troubled that the national Democratic Party and national LGBT organizations appear to have written off the 22nd Congressional District and other Central Valley districts.
Scott is one of the organizers of Gay Fresno, an online LGBT news and resource service that covers Fresno and nearby cities and towns in the Central Valley region. Although he agrees that Nunes is likely to win re-election this year, Scott told the Blade residents of Nunes' 22nd District have changed their views on LGBT issues in recent years.
"I don't feel like the people he represents have the identical mindset that he does on gay rights," Scott said.
Lesbian activist Robin McGehee, a Fresno resident who teaches communications at the College of the Sequoias in nearby Visalia, expressed a similar view. McGehee is co-founder of the national LGBT direct action group GetEqual and one of the lead organizers of the 2009 National March on Washington for LGBT Equality.
"It would be great if more of our state-based organizations and even national organizations were putting boots on the ground and resources in these congressional districts," she said. "I think we can swing the vote because Nunes is really not liked as well as what would be expected in a farming community like this."
McGehee added, "There are lots of liberal Democrats that are here. Nunes is the one who's gotten all the resources. That's the reason he's been in that seat as long as he has."
Nunes has voted against the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the law that prohibited gays from serving openly in the U.S. military. According to the HRC Congressional Scorecard, Nunes has declined to back all of the LGBT supportive bills pending in Congress, including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which calls for banning private sector employment discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation and gender identity.
He also opposes legal recognition of same-sex marriage and has declined to support or co-sponsor legislation to repeal the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.
Jack Langer, director of communications for Nunes' congressional office in Washington, said he would make inquires to determine if Nunes has changed his position on LGBT issues since the release of the HRC Scorecard in October 2010. Langer didn't get back with a response by Wednesday afternoon.
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