Obama Picks Up LGBT Supporters From Edwards

A critical mass of John Edwards’s LGBT steering committee is going public with support for Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. Hillary Clinton.

BY Kerry Eleveld

February 01 2008 12:00 AM ET

A critical mass
of John Edwards’s LGBT steering committee is going
public with support for Sen. Barack Obama over Sen.
Hillary Clinton. Twenty-two members of the Edwards
campaign’s 59-person gay and lesbian committee
will now be working for Obama victories next Tuesday and
throughout the rest of the primary season.

The new Obama
converts include Eric Stern, who headed up Edwards’s
LGBT steering committee, and longtime gay activist
David Mixner, who famously campaigned for Bill Clinton
in 1992, holding some of the very first gay
fund-raisers for a U.S. presidential candidate.

Mixner, a peace
activist during the war in Vietnam, came out early for
Edwards after the former North Carolina senator made an
unequivocal case for ending the Iraq war in a
speech at the historic Riverside Church in Harlem
in January last year.

Mixner said
Obama’s clear and consistent opposition to the war is
also driving his decision on this go-around.
“Moving from one candidate to another is never
an easy process,” he said, “but the times
demand that we all participate fully and completely to
bring about change. Originally, my support went to
Senator Edwards because of the war in Iraq. For the
very same reason, I am supporting Senator Obama. This is not
even a close call for me.”

Stern, who served
more generally as a political adviser to the Edwards
campaign, said he met with Hillary Clinton’s
director of LGBT outreach, Mark Walsh, and had several
phone conversations with Tobias Wolff, chair of
Obama’s national LGBT policy committee.

“I have
mentors working on the Clinton campaign,” said Stern,
who is also a former director of LGBT outreach for the
Democratic National Committee in California.
“Their outreach was as aggressive and as sincere.
It’s been a difficult choice for many of
us.”

Of the remaining
37 former steering committee members, Stern said another
eight were leaning Obama, three were fully committed to
Clinton, and others remained undecided or had not
contacted him.

Stern admitted
that he had already been moving toward supporting Obama,
mainly because, like Edwards, Obama has refused to take
money from special interest groups. He also feels that
Obama has the “purest position” of the
any of the three candidates in supporting full repeal of
the federal Defense of Marriage Act since 2004. Clinton
supports repealing only the part of DOMA that
prohibits the federal government from recognizing
state sanctioned same-sex marriages, leaving in place
the portion that allows states to ignore legal unions
performed in other states.

After meeting
with both Obama’s and Clinton’s LGBT leaders,
“it became clear to me personally that our
committee had a vision for the role of the LGBT
community that was similar to the role that LGBT supporters
were already playing in the Obama campaign,”
said Stern. “It is a pure grassroots,
activist-oriented operation,” he added, noting that
the 22 committee members will now be taking part in
Obama’s field operations as well as the policy
and press departments. “Thus far, it's clear that we
will play a similar role in the Obama campaign.”

The new
supporters will spend the next several days doing for Sen.
Obama exactly what they had been planning to do
for Edwards, a strategy that Stern called both a
“viral and local grassroots effort” –
sending e-mails out to their respective networks along
with phone banking, canvassing, and encouraging
others to get involved with the campaign.

“We
believe that Obama can pick up more delegates if the 12%-15%
of Edwards supporters nationwide -- and even more in
some states -- will turn out for Obama,” he
said. “We believe we can make a difference.”

Besides Stern,
who is based in San Francisco, and Mixner, who lives in
New York, some of the other members who made the leap to
Obama are heavy hitters in February 5 voting states:

Arizona -- Linda
Elliott, member of the Human Rights Campaign board of
directors and a major fund-raiser for defeating the
state’s constitutional marriage amendment;

Georgia -- Kyle
Bailey, chair of the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats;
LGBT Caucus vice chair of the Young Democrats of America;
former state board member of the National Stonewall
Democrats;

Northern
California – Evan Low, out council member for the
city of Campbell;

Southern
California – Pam Cooke, National Stonewall Democrats
board member; past president, Stonewall Democratic
Club of Los Angeles;

Tennessee
– Jim Maynard, president of the Memphis Stonewall
Democrats.

-----------

Below is the full List of former Edwards supporters
who are now publicly supporting Obama as provided by
Eric Stern:

Eric Stern,
former political adviser to the John Edwards for President
campaign, former National Stonewall Democrats executive
director, former director of LGBT outreach for the
Democratic National Committee (California)

David Mixner,
writer, Democratic Party activist (New York)

Linda Elliott,
member of the board of directors for the Human Rights
Campaign (Arizona)

Evan Low, council
member for the city of Campbell, Calif.

David Garrity,
vice chair of the Maine Democratic Party

Andy Szekeres,
former Colorado Stonewall Democrats cochair, former
Wisconsin LGBT field director, Kerry-Edwards (Colorado)

Kyle Bailey,
former board member, National Stonewall Democrats, LGBT
Caucus vice chair of Young Democrats of America, Chair of
Atlanta Stonewall Democrats (Georgia)

Pam Cooke,
National Stonewall Democrats board member; past president,
Stonewall Democratic Club of Los Angeles (California)

Bill Hedrick,
president of Central Ohio Stonewall Democrats

David Mariner,
former Out for Howard Dean cochair (Maryland)

Jason Lansdale,
past president of Central Ohio Stonewall Democrats

Daniel Hinkley,
Nevada Stonewall Democratic Caucus president

Misty York,
communications director for the Kentucky Fairness Alliance

Christopher
Prevatt, chair of Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club (Orange
County, Calif.)

Jim Maynard,
president of Memphis Stonewall Democrats (Tennessee)

Daniel Graney,
past president of Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio
(Texas)

Arthur Nunn,
former Missouri for Edwards volunteer organizer and founder
of LGBT for Edwards MySpace Group

Brad Reichard,
public pelations executive (Massachusetts)

Michael Shannon,
national security expert (D.C.)

Les Krambeal,
board member for the National Stonewall Democrats, cochair,
Southern Arizona Stonewall Democrats

Robert D. Horvath
Jr., member of the board of directors for the Mautner
Project (D.C.)

Patrick J. Lyden,
LGBT community activist (D.C.)

All organizations
listed for identification purposes only.

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