BY Kerry Eleveld
March 17 2010 11:20 AM ET
One down, seven to go! — that’s the mantra today for Fight Back New York, a political action committee focused solely on unseating state senators who voted against a same-sex marriage bill last year, including the eight Democrats who failed to back marriage equality.
One of those Democratic senators, Hiram Monserrate, suffered a stinging defeat Tuesday in a special election, losing to pro-marriage Democratic assemblymember José Peralta 66% to 27%.
“First Target: Hiram Monserrate,” declared the Fight Back New York website prior to the race. Mission accomplished, no apologies.
“We’re at the point here in New York where patience is no longer a virtue. We’re not asking anymore,” said Valerie Berlin of Berlin Rosen Public Affairs, the political consulting firm that was hired to orchestrate the campaign against Democratic senator Hiram Monserrate.
The blowout was validation for a bolder, take-no-prisoners approach launched by wealthy LGBT equality activists who watched years of lobbying for a New York marriage bill go up in flames last summer when it was defeated 38-24 in the state senate. Progressive donors had also lavished hundreds of thousands of dollars on 2008 senate races in order to flip the chamber to Democratic control.
Tim Gill, a Colorado millionaire, is the PAC’s largest individual donor at $30,000. But according to filings, contributions to the committee range anywhere from $10 and $50 to $2,500 and $5,000. Berlin said the PAC claims nearly 450 donors with a little more than 50% of them residing outside New York.
The strategy marks a break from the past for Gill and his 501 (c)(4), Gill Action Fund, which has typically tried to maintain a relatively low profile as they worked to elect what they call “fair-minded majorities” in states around the country.
Berlin promised that Fight Back New York would apply the bolder Monserrate model to upcoming senate races across the state — pinpointing the unique Achilles heel of every anti-equality senator and exploiting it to their detriment.
“This was an opportunity for us to show the senators that there are going to be consequences for being on the wrong side of history and that we are going to put our money where our mouth is,” she said.